Home>Highlight>LD11 lawmakers push ahead with bill allowing New Jerseyans living abroad to vote in local, state races

From left, Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (D-Neptune), State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) and Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Freehold). (Photo: Via Facebook)

LD11 lawmakers push ahead with bill allowing New Jerseyans living abroad to vote in local, state races

By Nikita Biryukov, May 14 2021 3:46 pm

Lawmakers in the 11th district are pushing ahead with a plan to extend to New Jerseyans living overseas the right to vote in state and local elections.

Under existing law, New Jerseyans living overseas are allowed to vote only in federal elections so long as they were last registered to vote — or last eligible to register — in New Jersey, are not registered to vote elsewhere and can prove their U.S. citizenship.

“Basically, all of these voters who formerly resided here would be able to, if they’re living overseas and they’re qualified to vote in the election, you should be able to,” said Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Freehold), who is sponsoring the bill. “That’s the line.”

The Assembly version of the bill has sat unmoving since being introduced in late January, though its Senate equivalent was introduced on Tuesday by State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch), Downey’s running mate.

The bill would also do away with a state form asking whether voters living overseas intended to return to the United States. If a voter was not certain about when, or if, they would return to America, that questionnaire could deprive them of their suffrage.

“You shouldn’t have to answer those questions about if you intend to return or if your return is uncertain,” Downey said.

The bill would allow U.S. citizens who were born abroad to vote in the state’s federal elections if their parent, guardian or spouse was eligible to vote in New Jersey before their departure and they are otherwise eligible to vote.

Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed a similar bill before leaving office, eventually signing one that did not extend suffrage in local and state elections to New Jerseyans permanently living abroad.

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