TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso introduced a three-bill package this week enhancing ballot security, establishing a permanent electronic petition process, and requiring an automatic recount in the event an election comes down to a 0.5% vote difference.
“Voters will mistrust our democratic process if elections are not secure. My proposed reforms are badly needed in New Jersey, especially as the state changes the rules on voters once again and looks to implement the early voting law this October,” said DiMaso (R-Monmouth).
Under a bill (A5774) in DiMaso’s package, security camera surveillance video at each ballot drop box must be made available to a candidate’s campaign and to a political party at their request and expense. Additionally, the secretary of state would be required to verify that “ballot bearers,” people who transport completed vote-by-mail ballots for others, follow applicable laws, including those that limit the number of ballots they are permitted to handle and who can be a ballot bearer.
“Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, 94 percent of voters cast their ballot by mail in the general election. They also largely relied on ballot drop boxes to get their votes cast in time as the Postal Service dealt with delivery delays,” said DiMaso. “It is not unreasonable that people questioned whether election officials could process such a huge number of ballots accurately and securely.”
Unlike last year, all active registered voters will not receive a mail-in ballot for this year’s elections. People will be permitted to vote in-person on machines at polling sites this year. Only certain voters with disabilities could do that in 2020. Ballot drop boxes will still be available; however, they may not be at the same location since a law was passed giving counties more control over their placement.
“Last year’s elections were unprecedented and revealed some weaknesses, as well as strengths in our processes,” said DiMaso. “If something works, we should keep it, as long as we uphold the integrity of our elections.”
Another bill (A5776) in the package makes the electronic petition process used in the 2020 elections permanent. Nominating, recall, initiative, and referendum petition forms must be made available online and petition signatures could be collected electronically.
DiMaso is also calling for an automatic recount in races decided by a vote differential of less than 0.5%. Bill A5775 requires the recount to occur within 48 hours following the initial results of that election. The state would bear the costs.
Superior Court judges granted 14 recounts for elections held throughout the state last November. Races were typically decided by razor-thin margins. The recounts overturned the results of two races in Ocean County.