In the Reporter, several people have expressed concerns about “absentee” balloting in recent local elections. Their concerns are real, but they don’t seem to be aware of several changes to voting procedures made recently by the Legislature. First of all, it’s not called “absentee” balloting any longer. It’s “vote by mail” or “mail-in ballots,” and the reason for the change was to get rid of the stigma attached to the word “absentee” and to lessen the memory of past abuses. People who vote by mail are not “absentee.” Most likely they are simply too busy to get to a poll. The world has changed a lot since the Legislature began to allow voting by mail and not only frail persons or those who schedule travel in advance are unable to get to polls on Election Days. To allow people to vote, no matter how complicated their personal schedules, “no excuses” requests for mail-in ballots is encouraged. Anyone can vote from home and simply mail it in. Admittedly, there have been valid concerns about how multiple ballots are amassed by campaigns and delivered by messengers. So in a bill already enacted by the New Jersey Legislature, that issue is well addressed. The law will read: “No person shall serve as an authorized messenger for more than 10 qualified voters in an election. No person who is a candidate in the election for which the voter requests a mail-in ballot shall be permitted to serve as an authorized messenger or bearer.” There are also tighter rules about messengers showing photo identification and elections clerks comparing signatures at the time the messenger delivers ballots. The legislation, which had bipartisan support, wasn’t enacted in response to any specific problems anywhere in the state, but in an effort to prevent any problems in the future.
Joan M. Quigley
Assemblywoman and Chair of Assembly State Government Committee