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In a rare August special session, the New Jersey State Senate passed a VBM reform bill this morning by a 22-10 vote along party lines.
The legislation, introduced on Friday, seeks to overturn a decision by the state Division of Elections that blocked voters who requested vote-by-mail ballots in 2017 and 2081 from automatically receiving them for the 2019 general election.
“We are Democrats and we want people to vote,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney, who sponsored the bill. “The statistics show, making voting more accessible increases voter participation. It’s striking to me that we even have to be here, the last week of August, to prevent us from losing the improvements we have made to voter convenience and participation over the past couple of years. The greater the civic engagement, the healthier the democracy. This isn’t political, it’s fundamental, and we need New Jersey to have the strongest democracy possible.”
The Assembly has scheduled a voting session for tomorrow to consider the bill.
The universe of voters who requested VBM ballots in the last two general elections overwhelmingly benefits Democrats and could make a difference in at least three hotly contested legislative districts where six Republican-held Assembly seats are up for grabs.
In 2018, the campaigns of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez and Reps. Andy Kim (D-Marlton), Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill) and Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) invested considerable resources in a technology-driven grass-roots effort to substantially increase the pool of Democrats who use mail-in ballots.
Democrats were lefts scratching their heads when the Murphy administration ruled that the 2018 VBM law only applied to voters who requested VBM ballots for the 2016 election.
Sponsors of the bill, including Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick), disagreed with Way’s opinion of the legislative intent.
Assuming the bill passes the Assembly tomorrow, it will go to the governor’s desk for approval.
County clerks are due to begin mailing VBM ballots on September 21.
State Sen. Joseph Pennacchio (R-Montville) says New Jersey’s vote-by-mail law is flawed.
“Voter fraud is very real in New Jersey, and much of that fraud centers on ballots not cast in a polling place,” said Pennacchio. “This legislation does nothing to prevent illegal aliens from voting or to stop campaign operatives from illegally registering people, collecting ballots, and rigging elections.”
State Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego (D-Evesham), who switched parties earlier this year, voted yes on the bill.
Among the Democratic Assembly candidates who would likely benefit from the bill are Gina LaPlaca and Mark Natale, who are running in Addiego’s district against two of her former running mates, incumbent Ryan Peters (R-Hainesport) and former Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield.
This story was updated at 4:56 PM.
This story was updated at 1:02 PM.