A bill that would allow early and mail-in votes to be canvassed by county election boards prior to Election Day advanced through the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today. The bill was drafted largely in response to last year’s general election, when slow vote counting in some counties caused election results in several races to remain undetermined for days or weeks after Election Day.
“This year’s election results were significantly delayed due to the counting of [absentee and early] ballots,” State Sen. Troy Singleton (D-Delran), one of the bill’s sponsors, said last month when the bill was introduced. “By allowing county boards of elections to begin processing early votes and VBMs before Election Day, we hope to restore timeliness and confidence in the process, while maintaining and upholding election integrity.”
Every Democrat on the committee voted in favor, while all four Republicans abstained. State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver), in explaining his rationale for abstaining, said that county election officials have told him more far-reaching reforms are required.
“I’m working with a couple of other legislators on both sides of the aisle on some comprehensive reforms,” O’Scanlon said. “We’re hearing from county clerks throughout New Jersey that they don’t necessarily need to start counting votes before Election Day.”
A similar bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips (R-Wyckoff), has also been introduced in the Assembly, though DePhillips’ bill would apply only to absentee ballots.