Assemblyman, District 23
New Jersey Legislature
Proudly Serving Hunterdon, Somerset
and Warren Counties
No Need to Waste Millions
on Voting Changes in NJ
Two measures aimed at improving voter participation recently passed the General Assembly and will cost taxpayers millions of dollars, with little if any of the desired effect. The proposals to expand early voting and pay for postage on mail-in ballots are unnecessary and absurdly costly.
We already have early voting. Registered voters can vote by mail or in person at the county clerk’s office up to 45 days in advance to the day before the election.
Bills recently passed by the state Senate and Assembly would allow voters to cast ballots during the 15 days prior to an election at a regional voting place. The facilities would be required to be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. Based on the number of registered voters in Hunterdon and Warren Counties, three regional facilities would need to be open and fully staffed. Somerset County would need five locations.
It is estimated the program could cost more than $87 million in the first three years, for poll workers, voting equipment and electronic poll books. This cost would be bore by taxpayers and doesn’t include overtime costs for county and municipal employees.
Voting in New Jersey is convenient, particularly the non-restricted vote by mail program. A voter can submit one application and automatically receive mail-in ballots for every future election.
A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin of the 2008 presidential election showed that voter turnout in counties with early voting was three percent lower than counties without it. Additional research consistently shows that early voting option is used by those most likely to vote anyway.
We can make this easier on the voter without increasing the state’s budget immensely. A public information campaign can let voters know how they already may vote early and conveniently. A well-coordinated marketing campaign can provide all necessary information for voters who wish to “go to the polls” in advance.
Another bill that passed the Assembly last week would require all vote by mail ballots include a pre-paid envelope for its return to the County Board of Elections. Only a few counties in the state currently provide return postage for these ballots; none in the 23 district. In the counties that already pay postage, this bill would shift the burden from the county budgets to the state. The cost for this program is an estimated $450,000 annually.
No system is perfect, but the one we have in place already addresses the early voting issues and provides a convenient means of exercising one's right to vote. We just need to get the word out and let people know.
Website paid for by DiMaio for Assembly.