Voter-related deadline measures advance

TRENTON – The Senate State Government committee released three bills related to elections. The committee backed S1264, 4-0-1 with Sen.

TRENTON – The Senate State Government committee released three bills related to elections.

The committee backed S1264, 4-0-1 with Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego, (R-8), Evesham, abstaining.

The bill clarifies deadlines to request a mail-in ballot application by mail. 

Current law states that an application must be made not less than seven days before the election.  This bill provides that a request for an application for a mail-in ballot must have a postmarked date of not less than seven days before the day of the election.

Then the committee advanced S1378 by a vote of 3-1-1 with Sen. Sam Thompson, (R-12), Old Bridge opposed, and Addiego abstaining.

The bill would permit voter registration up to 14 days before an election.

Dale Florio, testifying on behalf of county clerks, raised logistical concerns and the increased stress on the ability of clerks to make sure elections are run smoothly.

He suggested that clerks not be required to hold up mailing of sample ballots, and that possibly clerks be allowed to utilize the data on hand 21 days prior to the election to begin sample ballot preparations.

Sponsor Sen. Shirley Turner, (D-15), Trenton, said, however, that some states have same-day registration. “I have faith and confidence in our clerks,’’ she said.

Then the panel OK’d a resolution, SCR26, which would allow those who would be 18 by the date of a general election to register and vote in that primary election. It passed 3-0-2 with Addiego and Thompson abstaining.

Finally, the committee took testimony but did not vote on another resolution, SCR82, which would propose a constitutional amendment to make it easier to recall an elected official.

Currently, in order to have a recall measure on the ballot, a recall petition must be signed by at least 25 percent of the voters in the electoral district of the official. 

The proposed change would adjust the required signatures to 25 percent of the number of registered voters who voted at the most recent general election.

Former Sen. William Schluter of Pennington testified and offered some words of caution. 

Although he sympathized with the intentions of the bill, he said this proposal would make matters worse because of how greatly election turnouts can vary, especially from presidential to non-presidential voting years.

He said he sponsored the current recall legislation in the mid-1990s and said what was important was that its use be “reasonably rigorous so that it would be used only when there was genuine public concern about the competency, integrity and other attributes of the elected official who was being targeted.’’

He said that experience has shown that the standard of 25 percent of registered voters is too high a hurdle, but said changing it to 25 percent of the turnout will not produce a fair number, either.

He suggested an amendment tied to a more reasonable number, such as 15 percent of registered voters.

And Committee member Sen. Shirley Turner, (D-15), Trenton, pointed out the frustration of voters in Trenton whose attempt to recall Mayor Tony Mack failed because the required number of signatures was so high. Voter-related deadline measures advance