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.