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New Jersey

New Jersey has the opportunity to further strengthen its election system by codifying temporary reforms enacted in 2020 and implementing other voter-centric reforms. In particular, we recommend that the State join ERIC, expand risk limiting audits, guarantee prepaid postage, and improve ballot tracking. In addition, after implementing a vote by mail system for the first time in 2020, the State is a prime candidate for switching to an entirely vote by mail system going forward. As always, while policy is important, effective implementation is just as important.

As of 2021....

No Excuse Required

No Excuse Required

No excuse to vote by mail

Online Mail Ballot Application

Online Mail Ballot Application

Apply for mail ballot online

Robust Ballot Return Option

Robust Ballot Return Option

U.S. mail, drop boxes, vote centers, and more

Prepaid Postage

Prepaid Postage

Postage-paid return envelopes provided

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Accepts ballots postmarked by Election Day

Ballot Tracking

Ballot Tracking

Online method to check ballot status

Signature Verification

Signature Verification

Voter signature verified before ballot is counted

Cure Process

Cure Process

Ability to correct issues so ballot can be counted

Preprocessing

Preprocessing

Election official may process ballot before Election Day

Opportunities

By turning its focus to creating a full Vote By Mail permanently, New Jersey can continue the excellent progress made to expand voter access and convenience. The current single sign-up option for a mail ballot is very popular and will likely continue to grow. In person options are still an essential part of a good election system, so we recommend that New Jersey continues to invest in a robust early voting system that can be transitioned to vote centers to accommodate the changing needs of voters, as well as continuing to improve in data infrastructure.
We highly recommend creating vote centers, or polling locations where any voter in the county can vote. This is a way to streamline the system so over time, as the share of the vote cast by mail increases, counties can have fewer overall polling locations, while individual voters will have more voting location options.
Creating an online portal for voters to request an absentee ballot not only makes it much more convenient for voters, it also would be a boon to election officials. The system could be built to feed directly into the voter registration system to help verify addresses, collect contact information, and to remove administrative steps (and costs!) to process a large amount of requests. We encourage an integrated process that allows new voters to register, current voters to make changes to their address and make requests for ballots in a seamless manner.
Simplifying the return process for a ballot is just as important as simplifying the request process. Ensuring that voters do not need to make an extra trip to the post office is not only a voter-centric reform, but also a safety reform. While New Jersey has passed legislation to prepay postage for the 2020 elections, the state should make prepaid postage permanent for all future elections.
Ballot tracking software such as Ballot Scout or BallotTrax can be a very cost-effective tool that increases voter confidence by allowing voters to track their ballot much like Amazon. Currently, New Jersey is only required to mail a voter to notify them of an issue; an expanded notification system would keep rejection rates low and increase voter confidence and participation.

Recent Legislation

As of July 28, 2021

New Jersey has passed recent legislation that implemented best practices for the 2020 election. A 4276/S 2598, which was passed as a permanent measure, established ballot tracking in NJ, but the system could be significantly more robust. A 4320/S 2633 established a variety of reforms related to voter education, mail ballot rejection standards, the preservation of mail ballot materials; most notably, it ensured that ballots without postmarks but received within 48 hours of the polls will be counted. A 4831/S 3203 facilitated no-excuse in-person early voting. A 4475/S 2580 established secure drop boxes permanently and A 5373/S 3596 established additional drop box restrictions. However, a variety of other changes are temporary measures for the 2020 election. These temporary changes, such as sending all active voters a ballot and including prepaid postage, were established via an executive order.

In 2021, New Jersey passed A5357 to give more local autonomy for drop box and early voting locations. Fortunately, many of the 2020 temporary measures have bills currently in committee that would make the changes permanent. For example, A 943/S 2536 would require that all mail-in ballots include prepaid postage and S 906 would require that mail-in ballot applications include prepaid postage. A 4579 would allow county boards of election to begin counting ballots up to 14 days before election day. These bills, along with 44 others, are currently under consideration. 

As of July 2021, New Jersey has passed two bills relevant to mail voting: A5357, to give more local autonomy for drop box and early voting locations, and S3999, which allows the Secretary of State to join the interstate data sharing compact ERIC. Since New Jersey has a year-round session, there’s still time to make changes. Fortunately, many of the 2020 temporary measures have bills currently in committee that would make the changes permanent. The Legislature has until the end of 2021 when its session ends to pass some of these bills and further strengthen its electoral system.