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The 25th district’s Assembly candidates called on Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration to reverse a ruling that would force voters who requested vote-by-mail ballots in 2017 and 2018 to reapply to receive mail-in ballots for the upcoming election.
“The intent of the automatic provision in the new vote by mail law was to provide a permanent alternative to in-person voting, and that’s exactly what voters understood when they signed up,” Morris County Democratic vice chair Lisa Bhimani said. “Pulling out the rug from underneath them a year or two years later, after they’ve already turned down an opportunity to opt out, is voter suppression, plain and simple.”
On Thursday, the New Jersey Globe reported that Murphy’s administration issued a ruling that said the letter a new vote-by-mail law only granted forever-VBM status to voters who requested mail-in ballots in 2016 or before.
That means vote-by-mail groundwork conducted by campaigns in 2017 and 2018 won’t carry forward into this year’s elections.
“All day we’ve been hearing from voters who are confused about how to cast their ballots. They signed up to vote by mail, they were told they would continue to receive their ballots in perpetuity, and now they’re hearing the exact opposite,” Chester Democratic municipal chair Darcy Draeger said. “We need to be focused on making it easier to vote, not harder. This ruling is irresponsible and wrong.”
Bhimani and Draeger will face Assemblyman Anthony Bucco and Denville Councilman Brian Bergen in November.
Last year, congressional candidates — including U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and Reps. Mikie Sherrill and Tom Malinowski, among others — put resources into building vote by mail programs that could be leveraged in future races at various levels.
In many of those races, Democratic candidates performed better in mail-in votes than they did in the machine vote.
Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, one of the VBM bill’s co-sponsors, said the legislature intended voters who applied for mail-in ballots after 2016 to receive them in perpetuity.
“Vote by mail ballots could very well make the difference in our race. We can’t leave this election or any other in New Jersey to administrative error,” Draeger said. “The Division of Elections must reverse this ruling and send out a correction immediately.”