TRENTON, N.J. – The Assembly last week passed a bill that on the surface seems like a win for out-of-country voters. However, one Assemblyman said it is nothing more than a scheme for Democrats to harvest ballots.
Currently, United States citizens who previously were New Jersey residents and now live abroad, but have no intent to return stateside or are uncertain of when they may return, can vote in federal elections only. This bill would remove language to allow them to vote in state elections. Predictably, the Assembly adopted the bill (A5306) along party lines, 49 to 25 with one abstention.
“All this does is open up the ability for people to harvest votes, from people who are overseas who have no intent to return back to the United States,” Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-Morris) said. Anyone overseas can declare a return date and still vote. “This [bill] is only going to help people who have no intention of coming back, who are going to be [overseas] for a prolonged period of time. And I know we like to think extremely highly of ourselves. But do you think someone in Japan for 10 years is going to really have a care in the world about who their state legislator is? No!”
Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-Morris) spoke out against A5306, a bill that he says is little more than Democrats attempting to harvest ballots.
Each state determines its own local and state election voting rules. New Jersey defines military voters as those who are “absent from his or her New Jersey residence on election day; and is entitled to vote whether he or she is living elsewhere in New Jersey (i.e. a military installation), outside of New Jersey or outside the United States.” Those members also include state citizens with the Uniformed Services, Merchant Marine, Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or immediate family members of those military personnel.
“Overseas voters” are those who now living outside the United States who resided in New Jersey immediately prior to moving.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 38 states allow residents living overseas to vote in state and local elections. Overseas voters, be they military or civilian, must apply for a Federal Post Card Application to receive an absentee ballot for federal elections. Bergen argued it is being disingenuously painted as legislation that helps military members and their families. However, active military members and their immediate family members are eligible to vote in all elections.
While on the Assembly floor last week, Bergen did not name the individuals who testified in favor of the bill during the June 16, 2021, Appropriations Committee meeting. Those two witnesses were John A. Baumlin Jr., living in Japan, and Candice Kerestan, residing in Germany, and both work with Democrats Aboard, “the official Democratic Party arm for the nine million Americans living outside the United States.”
“The person who testified…in Appropriations was a representative from the Democratic National Committee, saying they were overseas to help people overseas be able to vote over here. This is nothing short of an attempt by the Democrats to harvest votes. This is a poor excuse of a bill,” Bergen said.