Early-voting measure advances

TRENTON – The Senate Budget Committee released a bill dealing with early voting.

S2364 requires availability of early voting for certain elections.  It passed 8-5 along party lines.

An amendment eliminates a requirement for a voting site in each town.

It provides for in-person voting 15 days in advance at regional locations, sponsor Sen. Nia Gill said.

Republican committee members pressed Gill on the various aspects of the bill.

Sen. Kevin O’Toole called the details murky, and questioned Gill about costs, site locations, and the mechanics of getting the process up and running.

Elections officials would choose voting sites, Gill and chair Sen. Paul Sarlo said, but schools would be excluded due to security concerns and the nature of the early voting process encompassing 15 days.

A fiscal note estimated that first-year costs could be about $22.8 million, but that included purchase of electronic poll books, which the bill does not mandate, Gill said. 

And in response to a question from Sen. Steven Oroho, she said that protocol for ballot security would be under the purview of the Secretary of State.

Elections officials countered that early voting already exists with voters able to obtain a ballot and hand it back in to officials. They said this bill is an expensive and unnecessary option.

But James Harris of the NAACP-NJ said it supported any procedures that encourage more voter participation.

The panel advanced other bills:

S2163: This bill, passed 8-5 along party lines, provides to non-teaching employees of local, county or regional school districts, boards or commissions the right to submit to binding arbitration any dispute regarding whether there is just cause for a disciplinary action.

S1560: Allows a voluntary contribution to homeless veterans on the gross income tax return. It passed unanimously.

S1853: Directs Motor Vehicle Commission to develop and adopt an electronic lien and titling system for the state. It passed unanimously.

S717/A691: This bill requires the Motor Vehicle Commission  to designate on an individual’s driver’s license that the person is a veteran of the United States Armed Forces. It advanced unanimously.

S1094/A1887: Prohibits imposition of corporation business taxes on foreign corporations carrying passengers into and out of state in motor vehicle or motorbus. It advanced unanimously.

S1152/A2899: Directs the Division on Women to conduct an audit of the coordination of community responses to domestic violence.  It advanced unanimously.

S1819: Provides for distributions from the Alternate Benefit Program during the transition to retirement programs for faculty at institutions of higher education. It passed unanimously.

S2166/A3080: Requires health benefits coverage for refills of prescription eye drops under certain conditions. It passed unanimously.

S1253: This bill provides for expanded health insurance coverage for treatment of mental and nervous disorders and alcoholism and other substance-use disorders. It passed.

S2250: Authorizes use of constitutionally dedicated moneys to fund conversion of certain diesel vehicles to compressed natural gas or electric vehicles. It passed unanimously.

S2239/A3352: This bill revises and expands the state’s human trafficking law by creating a new human trafficking commission, criminalizing additional activities related to human trafficking as well as upgrading certain penalties on existing human trafficking. It passed unanimously.

Early-voting measure advances