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The Democratic Assembly candidates in the 25th district today slammed Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco for voting against VBM reform legislation they say will marginalize voters in the upcoming general election.
The new law could be fatal to Bucco’s bid for re-election to a sixth term, adding thousands of new voters who likely tilt toward the Democratic column to a traditionally low-turnout election.
In Bucco’s district, nearly 3,000 more VBM ballots were cast in the 2018 mid-term election than in the 2016 presidential election. In total, almost 14,000 25th district voters cast their ballots by mail in 2016 or 2018 who didn’t vote in the 2015 Assembly race.
“Anthony knows that if the voters have their way he’ll be out of a job, that’s why he’s doing whatever he can to disenfranchise thousands of New Jersey residents and suppress their votes. It’s self-serving politics at its worst and unfortunately just what we’ve come to expect from Anthony Bucco,” said Daniel Fleiss, the campaign manager for Lisa Bhimani and Darcy Draeger.
The bill, which passed both houses of the Legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy today, requires voters who cast vote-by-mail ballots in 2017 and 2018 to automatically receive mail-on ballots in 2019. The state Division of Elections had decided that a VBM law passed last year only applied to 2016 vote-by-mail ballots.
“We were called down here in what really amounts to an emergency session to vote on one issue – vote-by-mail,” Bucco said on Tuesday, after the Assembly voted along party lines to approve the bill. “Why are we doing it? Facts are clear. Because that benefits the majority party. But that does nothing for the constituents that we represent.”
Fleiss has a different take on Bucco’s vote against VBM reform
“Anthony is happy to lend his voice to the NRA and other special interests who funnel thousands of dollars into his campaign, but when it comes to hard working, middle class families having a say he votes no every time,” Fleiss said. “Maybe he thinks you should have to pay off your Assemblyman to have a voice in government, but that’s not how Democracy works.”
In 2018, Democratic congressional candidates Tom Malinowski and Mikie Sherrill combined to win the machine vote in the towns in the 25th legislative district by 12 percentage points, 56%-44%. Malinowski and Sherrill won the vote-by-mail by 20 points, 60%-40%.
The 25th still leans GOP, but it’s become increasingly more competitive: there are 8,132 more Republicans than Democrats. When the district was drawn in 2011, the Republican edge was 15,935.
Bhimani almost upset Bucco’s father, State Sen. Anthony R. Bucco, in 2017. She lost by just 2,528 votes, a 52%-48% margin.
Bucco won his Assembly seat by 2,430 votes — the closest race of his political career.
In the neighboring 26th district, Democratic Assembly candidate Christine Clarke said she would have voted for VBM reform if she was serving in the legislature.
“The right to participate in our democracy is an inalienable and constitutional right,” said Clarke. “A streamlined efficient voting process to increase civic engagement should be a goal of any democracy.”