New Jersey lawmakers have introduced legislation to allow county election officials to count mail-in ballots before polls close on Election Day.
State Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips, R-Bergen, introduced A-6143. It would require county boards of elections that tally vote-by-mail ballots before Election Day to guarantee the security and confidentiality of the ballots until polls close.
DePhillips points to this year’s election as proof a change is needed, saying several legislative races and the gubernatorial race remained uncalled for days as election officials counted mail-in ballots.
“When vote tallies are changing drastically, or flipping in favor of one candidate over another, because of a delay in counting mail-in ballots, voters lose trust in the security and integrity of our elections,” DePhillips said in a news release. “This year’s gubernatorial and legislative elections really underscored the importance of correcting the process.
“It is incumbent upon officials to fix the problems that lead to conspiracy theories,” DePhillips added. “Earlier counting of mail-in votes will help address some of this year’s hang-ups.”
Meanwhile, state Sen. Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, introduced S-4257 to allow county election boards to begin counting mail-in and early voting ballots before Election Day. However, county boards of elections could not start canvassing votes earlier than 24 hours after the early voting period ends.
The bill also allows county boards of elections to begin opening the inner envelopes and canvassing each mail-in ballot from the inner envelopes up to ten days before Election Day. However, it prohibits disclosing the results before polls close for in-person votes.
“Voting is a cornerstone of our democracy. Through our efforts to make voting more accessible via vote by mail and early voting, we have encouraged even more New Jerseyans to participate in the electoral process,” Singleton said in a news release.
“However, this year’s election results were significantly delayed due to the counting of these ballots,” Singleton added. “By allowing county board of elections to begin processing early votes and VBMs before Election Day, we hope to restore timeliness and confidence in the process, while maintaining and upholding election integrity.”