News

ZWICKER, BENSON & FREIMAN BILL TO PROTECT VOTER RIGHTS, EDUCATE PUBLIC AND ELECTION STAFF ON VOTE-BY-MAIL HEADS TO GOVERNOR

Protecting people’s right to vote in the midst of a pandemic threatening public health and safety, a measure sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Daniel Benson and Roy Freiman concerning voter rights and public awareness of vote-by-mail (VBM) passed the full Legislature Thursday. The legislation passed the Senate by a vote of 25-12 and the Assembly by a vote of 51-27-0.

The bill (A-4320) would require the Secretary of State to create public awareness materials that include informational posters to be displayed at polling places on VBM, information for voters on how to check the status of a mailed ballot and educational materials for county board of elections employees on standards for accepting or rejecting a mailed-in ballot.

“Safe and fair voting is a pillar of our democracy,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset). “Doing everything to ensure voters are fully prepared with the know-how to vote by mail and to ensure this method of voting is fair and transparent is critical to prevent voter suppression and protect the vote.”

During New Jersey’s municipal and school board elections in May, election officials did not count 9.6 percent of ballots sent in. This measure would prohibit a mail-in ballot being rejected due to missing or insufficient glue when such physical defects are outside of the voter’s control. Ballots deemed invalid must also be retained for two years.

“Recent months have revealed concerning flaws in our vote-by-mail system, many the result of simple, avoidable error,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “As we look to the general election in November, this legislation ensures voters are not only armed with the information to vote-by-mail, but also that mail-in ballots aren’t unduly being rejected and left uncounted.”

“With more than six million registered voters in New Jersey and a lot at stake in the upcoming general election, it’s imperative to continually improve the VBM process,” said Freiman (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset). “Helping to educate people as well as the county election staff counting mail-in ballots would build more trust and confidence among voters, and combat misinformation to safeguard people’s right to vote.”

The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk.


ZWICKER, BENSON & CONAWAY “BALLOT CURE ACT” TO PROTECT VOTING RIGHTS HEADS TO GOVERNOR

Bolstering efforts to keep democracy safe during coronavirus and beyond, Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Dan Benson and Herb Conaway sponsor a bill entitled ‘The Ballot Cure Act.’ The bill passed both the Senate and Assembly Thursday, 31-6 and 51-27-0 respectively.

The bill (A-4276) would enable voters to access a confidential, free-system to see whether their provisional, mail-in or overseas ballot was accepted for counting. It also provides that mail-in ballots would not be rejected for a physical defect in the inner envelope, outer envelope, certificate, or ballot outside the control of the voter.

“One of the foundations of our democracy is the right to vote,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset). “This year, most of us will choose to vote-by-mail because of safety concerns due to COVID-19. It is critical that each person knows that when their ballot is cast their vote is recorded. The purpose of this bill is to make voting more accessible and minimize the likelihood of disenfranchisement. We must make sure that every vote counts.”

Ballot curing provisions included in the bill stipulate that county board of elections must record the rejection of a voter’s ballot, and notify them within 24 hours of decision to reject the ballot. The voter would have up to 48 hours prior to the date for the final certification of election results to provide a cure for their ballot by following the instructions on the ‘Cure Form’ provided via mail or email along with the notification of the ballot’s rejection

“Every eligible voter has the right to participate in our electoral process,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “Doing our due diligence, as this bill does, to ensure voters mailing their ballot can track their vote and can rectify an issue that would invalidate their ballot is absolutely necessary for fair representation.”

This measure would also provide remedies specific for signature deficiencies, allowing voters to return a ‘cure form’ to the county board of elections to verify their ballot. The Secretary of State would additionally need to publish signature matching guidelines to ensure ballots are not needlessly invalidated during the authentication process due to slight and non-fraudulent causes of signature variance.

“In New Jersey we need to establish a modern voting system for the upcoming November election, and beyond, that will largely utilize vote-by-mail,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “This starts with better support and procedures for vote-by-mail, so that all voters and particularly the disabled, elderly and language-minority voters are able to safely and confidently vote from home.”

The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk.


BIPARTISAN-SPONSORED BILL TO REPLACE ‘FREEHOLDER’ TITLE WITH ‘COUNTY COMMISSIONER’ NOW LAW

New Jersey will no longer be the only state in the country to still use the colonial-era public office title of ‘freeholder’. Dating back to before the American Revolution, the title was used at a time when only white male owners of debt-free land could hold office. Today, it is a term often derided because of its inability to capture the actual duties of elected county officials.

To remove the outdated and confusing label, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law Friday a bill (A-3594) to change ‘Freeholder’ to ‘County Commissioner’. The bipartisan bill was sponsored in-part by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson and Angela McKnight.

“It is beyond time we change the title of ‘Freeholder’,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset). “As a term dating back to before the Revolutionary War, whose meaning was historically intended to keep county-level office restricted to white, male, debt-free property owners, it is not only outdated and archaic, but it is offensive to people of color and women. Our racist and sexist laws and conditions historically kept people from voting, owning land, and much more. Removing this exclusionary term from New Jersey’s political titles, while only a small and symbolic part of the work that lies ahead of us to break down the walls of systemic racism and sexism, is a step in the right direction.”

Under the law, the title of “chosen freeholder” and “boards of chosen freeholders” will be renamed to “county commissioner” and “boards of county commissioners” respectively.

Defined in the context of county government as “a member of the board which manages, controls, and governs the property, finances, and affairs of the county, and in which the executive and legislative powers of the county are vested,” the law provides where “freeholder” is referenced in statute it is to be understood as “county commissioner.”

“Removing vestiges of racism and sexism found in names or titles that have no place in our society today is an important step among many needed to bring an end to systemic bias,” said Reynolds-Jackson (D-Hunterdon, Mercer).  “‘Freeholder’ was never an effective title for the county public office holder. For persons of color, it was more of a reminder of the sordid and oppressive ideals of its colonial-era origins. It’s time to end the confusing and hurtful conversation surrounding the term ‘freeholder’ and rename the position.”

“New Jersey is the only state in America that still used the outdated and offensive title ‘freeholder’ for its elected county officials,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “The title dates back to pre-Revolutionary War in an era when county-level office holders had to be debt-free property owners, which, at that time included only white men. It is long overdue that we change the title to ‘county commissioner’ and forever eliminate the archaic and hurtful term of ‘freeholder.’”

Counties will also be required to update their websites to reflect the title change as well as retire letterheads, stationery, and other writings bearing ‘freeholder’ once their stock is exhausted. The update or replacement of signs or other writings will not be required within the law’s timeframe if doing so requires the use of county funds. These changes will, however, need to occur during the ordinary course of business.

Assemblywoman Betty DeCroce (R-Essex, Morris, Passaic) is also a sponsor of this legislation that has now been signed into law.


ZWICKER, BENSON & CONAWAY “BALLOT CURE ACT” TO PROTECT VOTING RIGHTS ADVANCED IN COMMITTEE

Measure to Require Notice of Ballot Rejection, Provide Voters with Remedies

Bolstering efforts to keep democracy safe during coronavirus and beyond, the Assembly State and Local Government Committee on Thursday advanced the ‘Ballot Cure Act’ sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Dan Benson and Herb Conaway.

The bill (A-4276) would enable voter to access a confidential, free-system to see whether their provisional, mail-in or overseas ballot was accepted for counting. It also provides that mail-in ballots would not be rejected for a physical defect in the inner envelope, outer envelope, certificate, or ballot outside the control of the voter.

“One of the foundations of our democracy is the right to vote,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset). “This year, most of us will choose to vote-by-mail because of safety concerns due to COVID-19. It is critical that each person knows that when their ballot is cast their vote is recorded. The purpose of this bill is to make voting more accessible and minimize the likelihood of disenfranchisement. We must make sure that every vote counts.”

Ballot curing provisions included in the bill stipulate that county board of elections must record the acceptance or rejection of a voter’s ballot, and notify them within 24 hours of decision to reject the ballot. The voter would have up to 14 days after the close of the polls on Election Day to provide a cure for their ballot.

“Every eligible voter has the right to participate in our electoral process,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “Doing our due diligence, as this bill does, to ensure voters mailing their ballot can track their vote and can rectify an issue that would invalidate their ballot is absolutely necessary for fair representation.”

This measure would also provide remedies specific for signature deficiencies, allowing voters to return a ‘cure form’ to the county board of elections to verify their ballot. The Secretary of State would additionally need to publish signature matching guidelines to ensure ballots are not needlessly invalidated during the authentication process due to slight and non-fraudulent causes of signature variance.

“In New Jersey we need to establish a modern voting system for the upcoming November election and beyond that will largely utilize vote-by-mail,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “This starts with better support and procedures for vote-by-mail, so that all voters and particularly the disabled, elderly and language-minority voters are able to safely and confidently vote from home.”

The bill now goes to the Speaker for further consideration.


ZWICKER, BENSON & FREIMAN BILL TO PROTECT VOTER RIGHTS, EDUCATE PUBLIC AND ELECTION STAFF ON VOTE-BY-MAIL CLEARS COMMITTEE

Protecting people’s right to vote in the midst of a pandemic threatening public health and safety, the Assembly State and Local Government Committee advanced a measure on Thursday sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Daniel Benson and Roy Freiman concerning vote-by-mail (VBM).

The bill (A-4320) would require the Secretary of State to create public awareness materials that includes informational posters to be displayed at polling places on VBM, information for voters on how to check the status of a mailed ballot and educational materials for county board of elections employees on standards for accepting or rejecting a mailed-in ballot.

“Safe and fair voting is a pillar of our democracy,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset). “Doing everything to ensure voters are fully prepared with the know-how to vote by mail and to ensure this method of voting is fair and transparent is critical to prevent voter suppression and protect the vote.”

During New Jersey’s municipal and school board elections in May, election officials did not count 9.6 percent of ballots sent in. This measure would prohibit a mail-in ballot being rejected due to missing or insufficient glue when such physical defects are outside of the voter’s control. Ballots deemed invalid must also be retained for two years.

“Recent months have revealed concerning flaws in our vote-by-mail system, many the result of simple, avoidable error,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “As we look to the general election in November, this legislation ensures voters are not only armed with the information to vote-by-mail, but also that mail-in ballots aren’t unduly being rejected and left uncounted.”

The deadline for receipt of mail-in ballots bearing a postmark on or before Election Day would be extended from two days after the closing of polls to six days.

“With more than six million registered voters in New Jersey and a lot at stake in the upcoming general election, it’s imperative to continually improve the VBM process,” said Freiman (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset). “Helping to educate people as well as the county election staff counting mail-in ballots would build more trust and confidence among voters, and combat misinformation to safeguard people’s right to vote.”

The bill now heads to the Speaker for further consideration.


School Supplies Drive

12 August 2020

Dear Friends:

As we face a very challenging back-to-school season with officials struggling over how to implement an effective and safe teaching and learning strategy, I look to you to help provide a bit of positive support to our students by participating in our Virtual School Supplies Drive. It is easy, COVID safe, and personalized to the school district of your choice. All that is required is a small act of kindness on your part.

Assemblyman Roy Freiman and I have teamed up with an online donations platform called YouGiveGoods. Just go to the donations webpage https://yougivegoods.com/njlegd16-btschoose the school district you would like to support, and click on SHOP to purchase the goods you would like to donate. You will be emailed a tax receipt at the time of purchase. All goods ordered online will be shipped directly to each school district after the drive ends, and the district will distribute the items to the kids in need.

Roy and I have an ambitious goal of collecting 2,000 items by August 31st. Help us achieve that goal and put much needed smiles on the faces of many children during these unsettling times.

Take Care,

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker
16th Legislative District


BIPARTISAN-SPONSORED BILL TO REPLACE ‘FREEHOLDER’ TITLE WITH ‘COUNTY COMMISSIONER’ CLEARS LEGISLATURE, HEADS TO GOVERNOR

New Jersey remains the only state in the country to still use the colonial-era public office title of ‘freeholder’. Dating back to before the American Revolution, the title was used at a time when only white male owners of debt-free land could hold office. Today, it is a term often derided because of its inability to capture the actual duties of elected county officials.

To remove the outdated and confusing label, the full Assembly voted 61-12-4 on Thursday sending legislation (A-3594) to change ‘Freeholder’ to ‘County Commissioner’ to the Governor’s desk. The bipartisan bill is sponsored in-part by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson.

“It is beyond time we change the title of ‘Freeholder’,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset). “As a term dating back to before the Revolutionary War, whose meaning was historically intended to keep county-level office restricted to white, male, debt-free property owners it is not only outdated and archaic, but it is offensive to people of color and women.

“Our racist and sexist laws and conditions historically kept people from voting, owning land, and much. Removing from New Jersey’s political titles this exclusionary term, while only a small and symbolic part of the work that lies ahead of us to break down the walls of systemic racism and sexism, is a step in the right direction.”

Under the bill, the title of “chosen freeholder” and “boards of chosen freeholders” would be renamed to “county commissioner” and “boards of county commissioners” respectively.

Defined in the context of county government as “a member of the board which manages, controls, and governs the property, finances, and affairs of the county, and in which the executive and legislative powers of the county are vested,” the measure provides where “freeholder” is referenced in statute it is to be understood as “county commissioner.”

“Removing vestiges of racism and sexism found in names or titles that have no place in our society today is an important step among many needed to bring an end to systemic bias,” said Reynolds-Jackson (D-Hunterdon, Mercer).  “‘Freeholder’ was never an effective title for the county public office holder. For persons of color, it was more of a reminder of the sordid and oppressive ideals of its colonial-era origins. It’s time to end the confusing and hurtful conversation surrounding the term ‘freeholder’ and rename the position.”

Counties would also be required to update their websites to reflect the title change as well as retire letterheads, stationery, and other writings bearing ‘freeholder’ once their stock is exhausted. The update or replacement of signs or other writings would not be required within the bill’s timeframe if doing so requires the use of county funds. These changes would, however, need to occur during the ordinary course of business.

Assemblywoman Betty DeCroce (R-Essex, Morris, Passaic) is also a sponsor of this legislation. 

The bill cleared the Senate in a vote of 31-6.


ZWICKER, BENSON & SUMTER BILL TO CREATE STRONG SAFEGUARDS OF COVID-19 CONTACT TRACING DATA RECEIVES ASSEMBLY APPROVAL

To safeguard and restrict use of data collected for contact tracing, the full Assembly voted 55-18-1 advancing legislation (A-4170) sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Daniel Benson and Shavonda Sumter on Thursday.

“Contact tracing has long been an important part of controlling the spread of a contagious disease,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset). “To that end, people need to know what contact tracing is, how it works, and most importantly that the information requested won’t be shared or stored for reasons beyond the goal: saving lives.”

The bill stipulates that any public health entity or contracted third party collecting data for contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic can only use it for the purpose of contact tracing or for research. If not deleted within 90 days after receiving it, the data must be de-identified.

Data collected would include information such as age, gender, race and ethnicity, location, infection status and date of COVID-19 onset among other statistics authorized by the Commissioner of Health.

“Establishing that contact tracing data goes nowhere beyond where it needs to go is about transparency and trust,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “If we expect people to share their personal information, they need to know that the data will be protected and that their privacy is our number one priority too.”

Misuse or unlawful disclosure of individually identifiable or private health data by a third party, or retention of data beyond date of required de-identification or deletion, would result in liability for a civil penalty of up to $10,000 collected by the Department of Health.

This measure also requires the Commissioner of Health to adopt rules and regulations regarding how collected contact tracing data may be used.

“Building public trust to share sensitive data is essential,” said Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic). “With better safeguards, not only by protecting data, but penalizing those who would seek to misuse it, we make efforts to contact trace more effective as people will feel more confident about participating.”

Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who have come into contact with someone that has tested positive for COVID-19, notifying them of their risk and providing support services. It can be done manually with verbal interviews or by using digital data and smartphone technologies such as Bluetooth and GPS.

The bill now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

 


ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE CLEARS ZWICKER, BENSON & SUMTER BILL TO CREATE STRONG SAFEGUARDS OF COVID-19 CONTACT TRACING DATA

To safeguard and restrict use of data collected for contact tracing, the Assembly Appropriations Committee advanced legislation (A-4170) sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Daniel Benson and Shavonda Sumter on Monday.

“Contact tracing has long been an important part of controlling the spread of a contagious disease,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset). “To that end, people need to know what contact tracing is, how it works, and most importantly that the information requested won’t be shared or stored for reasons beyond the goal: saving lives.”

The bill stipulates that any public health entity or contracted third party collecting data for contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic can only use it for the purpose of contact tracing or for research. If not deleted within 90 days after receiving it, the data must be de-identified.

Data collected would include information such as age, gender, race and ethnicity, location, infection status and date of COVID-19 onset among other statistics authorized by Commissioner of Health.

“Establishing that contact tracing data goes nowhere beyond where it needs to go is about transparency and trust,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “If we expect people to share their personal information, they need to know that the data will be protected and that their privacy is our number one priority too.”

Misuse or unlawful disclosure of individually identifiable or private health data by a third party, or retention of data beyond date of required de-identification or deletion, would result in liability for a civil penalty of up to $10,000 collected by the Department of Health.

This measure also requires the Commissioner of Health to adopt rules and regulations regarding how collected contact tracing data may be used.

“Building public trust to share sensitive data is essential,” said Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic). “With better safeguards, not only by protecting data, but penalizing those who would seek to misuse it, we make efforts to contact trace more effective as people will feel more confident about participating.”

Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who have come into contact with someone that has tested positive for COVID-19, notifying them of their risk and providing support services. It can be done manually with verbal interviews or by using digital data and smartphone technologies such as Bluetooth and GPS.

The bill now goes to the Speaker for further consideration.


BIPARTISAN-SPONSORED BILL TO REPLACE ‘FREEHOLDER’ TITLE WITH ‘COUNTY COMMISSIONER’ CLEARS COMMITTEE

Measure Sponsored in-part by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson

New Jersey remains the only state in the country to still use the colonial-era public office title of ‘freeholder’. Dating back to before the American Revolution, the title was used at a time when only white male owners of debt-free land could hold office. Today, it is a term often derided because of its inability to capture the actual duties of elected county officials.

To remove the outdated and confusing label, the Assembly Judiciary Committee advanced legislation (A-3594) Monday to change ‘Freeholder’ to ‘County Commissioner’. The bipartisan bill is sponsored in-part by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson.

“It is beyond time we change the title of ‘Freeholder’,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset). “As a term dating back to before the Revolutionary War, whose meaning was historically intended to keep county-level office restricted to white, male, debt-free property owners it is not only outdated and archaic, but it is offensive to people of color and women.

“Our racist and sexist laws and conditions historically kept people from voting, owning land, and much more. Removing from New Jersey’s political titles this exclusionary term, while only a small and symbolic part of the work that lies ahead of us to break down the walls of systemic racism and sexism, is a step in the right direction.”

Under the bill, the title of “chosen freeholder” and “boards of chosen freeholders” would be renamed to “county commissioner” and “boards of county commissioners” respectively.

Defined in the context of county government as “a member of the board which manages, controls, and governs the property, finances, and affairs of the county, and in which the executive and legislative powers of the county are vested,” the measure provides where “freeholder” is referenced in statute it is to be understood as “county commissioner.”

“Removing vestiges of racism and sexism found in names or titles that have no place in our society today is an important step among many needed to bring an end to systemic bias,” said Reynolds-Jackson (D-Hunterdon, Mercer).  “‘Freeholder’ was never an effective title for the county public office holder. For persons of color, it was more of a reminder of the sordid and oppressive ideals of its colonial-era origins. It’s time to end the confusing and hurtful conversation surrounding the term ‘freeholder’ and rename the position.”

Counties would also be required to update their letterheads, stationery, and other writings as well as websites to reflect the title change within a year of the bill becoming effective. The update or replacement of signs or other writings would not be required within the bill’s timeframe if doing so requires the use of county funds. These changes would, however, need to occur during the ordinary course of business.

Assemblywoman Betty DeCroce (R-Essex, Morris, Passaic) is also a sponsor of this legislation.

The bill now goes to the Speaker for further consideration.