A bill to establish early voting in New Jersey was approved by the Senate State Government Committee, but the legislature will need to move quickly if they expect the systems to be in place to implement the proposal in time for the November 8 general election.
The proposal allows in-person voting to begin 15 days before Election Day and ending on the Sunday before the election. Polling locations – at least three in each county and up to seven for the state’s largest counties – would be open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 AM to 8 PM and on Sunday from 10 AM to 6 PM.
Early voting would apply to primary and general elections, as well as non-partisan municipal, Board of Education and Fire Commissioner contests.
Voters could cast their ballots at any early voting location in the county where they reside.
“Our accountability over government, opportunities to better our lives and the chance to elect our representatives all depend upon our ability to access the ballot,” said State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Montclair), one of the primary sponsors.
Gov. Phil Murphy has been a strong supporter of early voting.
Multiple election officials have told the New Jersey Globe that they need at least six months to have early voting ready for the 2021 general election.
All five senators on the panel – Democrats Jim Beach (D-Voorhees), Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham) and Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence) and Republicans Chris Brown (R-Ventnor and Samuel Thompson (R-Old Bridge) – voted for the proposal.
Early voting locations must reflect access to the most heavily populated parts of each county.
Updates to the Statewide Voter Registration System would be required at least once a day during the early voting period.
The current bill prohibits the use of a public school building for early voting.
Gill, Turner and State Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Plainsboro) are the primary co-sponsors of the bill.
A similar bill was approved by the Assembly State and Local Government Committee in October 2019.