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New Jersey Lawmakers Send Permanent Absentee Voter Bill to the Governor

This week, the New Jersey legislature approved permanent absentee voting legislation [A 2451 by Rep. Joan Quigley and Sen. Raymond Lesniak] after minor reconciliation and scheduling delays kept the bill in a holding pattern for half a year.

In addition to giving voters the option to receive a mail ballot for consecutive elections with a single request, the bill also provides a new model for other states by offering all of its absentee voters the same process for voting by mail, including military and overseas voters.  This streamlined procedure should help make sure all ballots are counted and should make the job of handling mail ballots easier for election officials.

Fifth Permanent Absentee Voting State:  If Governor Corzine signs the bill, New Jersey will become the fifth state to provide a permanent absentee option for all voters, joining Colorado, California, Montana, and Washington, where the system has proven incredibly popular.  As we outlined in a Dispatch last month, increased access to voting by mail isn't just popular with voters, it also helps alleviate long lines at the polls and make sure that some voters aren't disenfranchised because they can't make it to the polls.  Sen. Lesniak saw a need for the bill because, he said, "[a]s New Jersey tries to get more people to exert their voice in government, we must make it easier for voters to vote on their own terms, rather than try to squeeze something else into what can be a hectic workday.”

Overall, voting outside the traditional polling place now accounts for almost a third of votes cast nationally.  In three of the four states that currently offer both early voting in person and a permanent absentee option to all voters, a majority of voters now vote by mail.  As more states adopt more permissive rules about voting by mail, it seems clear at this point that voter interest will grow across the country, propelling the further adoption of permanent absentee.

Resources:
New Jersey Vote by Mail Law
Progressive States Network - Voting by Mail and Before Election Day
Vote by Mail Project
Common Cause - Getting it Straight in 08: What We Know About Vote-by-Mail Elections and How to Conduct Them Well
National Network for State Election Reform - Importance of Universal Absentee Voting
Oregon Vote by Mail Procedures Manual