The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey sent a letter Thursday evening to Gov. Phil Murphy and Sec. of State Tahesha Way laying out steps that must be taken in order to ensure that upcoming elections in New Jersey are successful and robust, even during the current public health crisis.
“As we address our elections, it is paramount to prioritize health and safety, while also ensuring a thriving participatory democracy. Voting must be categorized as an ‘essential service’ and voters must have multiple options for accessing the ballot during this crisis. We are most concerned with communities, such as communities of color and the disability community, that historically face obstacles to the ballot,” said the groups in the letter.
The letter laid out specific recommendations to address voter registration, vote-by-mail, polling place protections, voter education, and voter protection. The recommendations are meant to apply to the June primary elections, and, if necessary, the November general election – as well as any special election between those dates.
The groups added, “We understand that there are no easy decisions. Every decision made during these trying times comes with repercussions … But it is precisely during times of crisis that we most need to lean on our collective resolve to ensure a healthy and reliable democracy … Our citizens need to have faith that their voices are heard, now more than ever, and we must do everything in our power to protect the sacred institution of voting.”
Excerpted recommendations are below. A full copy of the letter, with more detailed recommendations, can be found here (PDF).
- Dedicate resources to launching online voter registration as soon as possible
- Relax voter registration deadlines and permit election day registration
- Vote-by-mail ballots to all voters with clear instructions
- Include pre-paid postage on VBM return envelopes
- Send ballot and accompanying materials in all relevant languages, as required by the Voting Rights Act
- Maintain in-person opportunities to request and return vote-by-mail ballots, making sure to follow the CDC protocols to ensure the safety of the public and election officials
- Maintain tracking procedures for voters to track their mail-in ballots, including after voting
- Provide easy online access for voters to determine their vote-by-mail registration status
- Encourage vote-by-mail, but also maintain in-person voting opportunities to ensure all voters have equal opportunities to cast a ballot, including those for whom vote-by-mail is not an equitable solution
- Adequately sanitize polling places and follow CDC guidelines, with poll workers trained in implementing them
- Determine polling place location changes as early as possible, and ensure locations are ADA compliant and located in areas that are easily accessible to historically marginalized communities; communicate changes clearly; maintain current number of polling locations
- Prepare polling places for the casting of a large number of provisional ballots
Voter Education/Combating Misinformation
- Prioritize early, consistent, and clear communication about all changes; combat voter confusion and disinformation
- Provide clear, accessible, and updated information on the Secretary of State’s Division of Elections website, similar to the Department of Health’s website
- Ensure that Election Day judges are available to determine voter eligibility