The State Government Committee on Betting, Tourism, and Preserving Senate made five election-related bills today, including two notable bills that will increase voter pay and allow for early vote counts, both of which failed in previous legislative sessions. .
Probably the most important of the five bills and the only one that could provoke opposition is a bill authored by state senators Troy Singleton (D-Delran) and James Beach (D-Vurhiz) that will allow county election commissions to start counting absentee and early votes before election day, in an attempt to limit the delays that led to the 2021 election. According to the provisions of the bill, absentee votes can be counted up to ten days before election day, and early voting – one day after the end of the early voting period.
State Senator Vince Polistina (R-Egg Harbor) expressed doubts during today’s committee hearings that some counties would need so much extra time to count the ballots; was his own race in the Senate in Atlantic County convened on election night last year, while assemblies of Marilyn Peppern (R-Colts Neck) and Kim Julner (R-Shrewsbury), for example, could not be final announced the winners in Monmouth County for 10 days.
“It doesn’t make sense that it will take so long to count all the ballots,” Palistina said. “If we need more machines, or we need more questionnaires, or if we need more ability to count these things on election day, then we need to do it.”
But Beach, who also serves as chairman of the committee, said the bill does not require election commissions to start counting earlier, and thus it has been flexible for the needs of each state county.
“It’s allowed,” Beach said. “You don’t need to start campaigning in five days, so it’s allowed depending on your county and allows you to take into account the individual needs of the county.”
The bill was eventually passed by four votes in favor, including State Senator James Holzapfel (R-Toms River), and Palestine voted against. A similar bill, also authored by Singleton, was previously passed by the Senate Budget Committee in the last days of the January session of the Lame Duck, but the legislative session is over before he could move on.
Another potentially important piece of legislation that has advanced today is a bill sponsored by Sen. Beach and State Senator Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence) that will increase the pay of respondents from $ 200 to $ 300 a day, which was done on a temporary basis in the recent election . lawmakers want to make permanent.
“Apart from the pandemic, there is a need for a steady increase in wages to ensure an adequate number of voters for each election cycle,” said Aaron Green, assistant attorney for the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, at today’s committee meeting. “Given the persistent labor shortage, it’s important that we increase voter pay to better attract and successfully recruit more New Jersey residents to fulfill these roles.”
In the 2021 primary election, the legislature raised voter pay to $ 400 only for this electionand Governor Phil Murphy signed the order an increase in wages to $ 300 for the general election. The forerunner of today’s bill passed the Assembly last year at a session of the “Lame Duck”, but never made it to the governor’s table.
Three other bills were also passed today, calling for minor reforms in the election administration: one postponing the primary election deadline by one day to avoid Good Friday, and another extending the ban on campaigning near the polling station. . a place to include a stay within 25 feet of who is waiting in line to vote, and a third that would change the timing for successful enrollment of candidates to accept the primary nomination.
All three, as well as a bill to increase voter wages, were passed unanimously.