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Assemblywoman Joann Downey.

Bill delaying county committee swearings-in before Assembly Appropriations committee Tuesday

By Nikita Biryukov, May 14 2021 3:18 pm

The Assembly Appropriations Committee will weigh a bill delaying swearings-in for county committee members to account for longer vote counts on Tuesday.

Under current law, county committee members are seated on the first Tuesday following a primary. The bill would extend that timeline by weeks, seeing local party officials seated instead on the third Saturday after election results are certified.

New laws enacted during the pandemic created days-long grace periods for late-arriving mail-in ballots, plus additional days during which voters can cure deficient mail-in ballots.

That means county committee members could be seated before all votes are counted under existing law.

But holding county committee meetings on Saturdays could prove problematic for some of the state’s devout Jewish people.

“I think, even with what you’re saying where there might some exceptions, that, overall, it’s still the best day to make sure you have the most participation,” said Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Freehold).

The Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historical Preservation Committee unanimously cleared its version of the bill last March.

The bill contains a provision allowing committees to delay their annual meeting until the third Tuesday following the certification of primary results in case of a holiday or religious observance, but it’s not clear whether that provision would be invoked if a small number of county committee members were barred from attending a Saturday convention for religious reasons.

County Committees already routinely hold conventions on Saturdays, when attendance is less affected by work schedules and other considerations.

“I think it works out. I think it’ll be fine,” Downey said, adding she had not heard concerns over Saturday conventions.

The bill also creates a three-day grace period for municipal clerks to issue certificates of election after they receive vote tallies from the county clerk or county elections board and would transfer the responsibility of certifying the results to the county clerk.

“They felt very pressured. They had to make sure write-in votes, vote-by-mail ballots, provisional ballots were also included in the vote count before the certificates are issued,” Downey said. “It relieves some pressure from the municipal clerks to make sure that it’s all done properly.”

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