WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, July 28, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed a package of seven election bills into law. A few of the bills make welcomed changes such as permitting minors to serve as election workers, allowing officials to begin opening and canvassing mail-in ballots up to five days before Election Day, outlining a plan to publicize county-level results as ballots are counted and allowing voters to request mail-in ballots via an online portal.
For the most part, however, the newly-enacted laws do not make sweeping changes, but tweak the existing election laws. There are provisions that outline which types of voters living abroad may continue to vote in New Jersey elections, require ballot privacy sleeves at polling places and instruct local officials to report county deaths for the purpose of voter list maintenance. Assembly Bill 3820 prohibits election officials from sending mail-in ballots to unaffiliated voters (meaning, voters not registered with a particular party) on the permanent mail-in voting list. Since New Jersey has closed primaries, these unaffiliated voters must instead request a mail-in ballot for the specific political party primary they wish to vote in. A.B. 3820 also prohibits mail-in ballot envelopes from showing visible political affiliations. Other bills have some potential drawbacks: Assembly Bill 3819, for example, removes voters from the permanent mail-in voting list if they do not vote by mail in four consecutive elections.
“I am proud to sign legislation that will make democracy more accessible, more transparent, and stronger in our state,” said Murphy in a press release. Notably, one of the bills, Assembly Bill 3823, contains a provision for New Jersey to enter an agreement with the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), an opt-in interstate data sharing program for voter list maintenance. The package of bills did not include a proposed measure to implement same-day registration after that bill faced opposition from the state Senate president.