The New Jersey Assembly Appropriations Committee heard Assembly Bill 683 on Thursday, May 8th at 2:00 PM. This bill requires mail-in ballot applications be available at polling places on election day for voting in future elections, and requires poll workers to discuss application instructions with applicants upon request. Election Integrity NJ is dedicated to supporting smart voting policy in New Jersey. As a result, Election Integrity NJ strongly opposes New Jersey Assembly Bill 683.
To my knowledge, the OLS Legislative Budget and Finance Office has not conducted a fiscal analysis to estimate increases in State expenditures. A683 does not specify the quantity of mail-in ballot applications required to be made available at each polling place on Election Day. There are currently over 6,000 election districts within New Jersey. If each election district was provided with 30 mail-in ballot applications, and if the cost of printing each mail-in ballot application was ten cents, the total increase in State expenditures would be a minimum of $18,000. While this may seem like small change when compared to the overall State Budget, my question is why should hard-working New Jersey tax payers pay for this unnecessary expense? Why should New Jersey tax payers pay for increased fraud and irregularities in our elections? If the New Jersey Legislature has $18,000 to spend, why not sponsor a bill to require photo ID to vote at the polls, and use these funds to provide photo ID to those that are unable to obtain photo ID? Voters who are able to get to the polls on Election Day should be encouraged to vote at the polls. Instead A683 would encourage voters able to vote at the polls to vote by mail in future elections.
Responsibilities of Poll Workers
A683 would require each poll worker at each polling place to be trained on the instructions for completing and mailing a mail-in ballot application for future elections, to enable each poll worker, to discuss the mail-in ballot application instructions with voters upon request.
The primary responsibility of poll workers is to ensure that elections are conducted fairly and lawfully, in accordance with Title 19 of the New Jersey Statutes. As a result, poll workers are responsible for:
- Setting up machines, poll books and other material at the designated polling district.
- Opening the polls on time.
- Determining who is eligible to vote.
- Assisting voters with the sign-in process and verifying signatures.
- Assisting voters in the operation of the electronic voting machine (if necessary).
- Answering voter’s procedural questions.
- Maintaining order at the polls.
- Closing the polls at the end of the day.
- Completing official documents and returning supplies and results.
Election Integrity NJ maintains that it is NOT the responsibility of poll workers to provide instruction to voters on the completion of mail-in ballot applications. In fact, requiring poll workers to provide such instruction may directly interfere with their other responsibilities, most especially during peak voting hours.
A683 was subsequently amended to replace the provision that required the Secretary of State to ensure that each poll worker at each polling place is trained on the instructions for completing and mailing a mail-in ballot application, with a provision that requires the secretary and each county clerk to establish and maintain an Internet webpage that provides instructions for completing and mailing a mail-in ballot application.
Mail-In Ballots Used As an Alternative to Voting At the Polls Will Lead To Increased Mail-In Ballot Fraud
Almost every American realizes that democracies are only as legitimate as their rules for counting the votes. Voter fraud is an unfortunate reality in this country that undermines citizens’ faith in the electoral process, but few agree on its pervasiveness.
While photo ID and proof of citizenship laws remain controversial across partisan lines, election experts say the real potential for fraud and mistakes happens with mail-in ballots, a potential they said has gone relatively unregulated. With mail-in ballots, there are no poll workers or administrators present when a voter casts his or her vote, which may leave the ballot open to potential mistakes or abuse. Examples of mail-in ballot fraud also include rare instances of organizations coercing members to vote a certain way or someone selling absentee ballots.
There is a bipartisan consensus that voting by mail, whatever its impact, is more easily abused than other forms. In a 2005 report signed by President Jimmy Carter and James A. Baker III, who served as secretary of state under the first President George Bush, the Commission on Federal Election Reform concluded, “Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.”
On the most basic level, voting by mail replaces the oversight that exists at polling places with something akin to an honor system. “Absentee voting is to voting in person,” Judge Richard A. Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has written, “as a take-home exam is to a proctored one.”
As part of the News 21 national investigation into voting rights in America, a team of reporters took on the unprecedented task of gathering, organizing, and analyzing all reported cases of election fraud in the United States since 2000. The result is the most extensive collection of U.S. election fraud cases ever compiled. As of August 12, 2012, the News21 election-fraud database contains information on 2,068 cases (http://votingrights.news21.com/interactive/election-fraud-database). The statistics clearly show that there is more fraud associated with mail-in ballots (24.2 percent) than any other category and the highest percentage of accused are voters (31.2 percent). News21 also acknowledges that the database is not complete. In my written testimony, I have provided sources of actual cases of mail-in ballot fraud for just 8 of the 50 states.
For these reasons, Election Integrity NJ opposes the use of mail-in ballots as an alternative to voting at the polls. Mail-in ballots should only be used as a back-up option for those who can’t get to the polls on Election Day. This bill would result in encouraging more voters to use mail-in ballots as an alternative to voting at the polls, leading to increased mail-in ballot fraud.
The New Jersey Legislature is well aware that there will come a point in time when they will not be able to use the “voter suppression” excuse to prevent the implementation of photo ID being a requirement to vote. Many other states have implemented photo ID with success. With that in mind, a new strategy is needed that will allow voters to vote without being required to show photo ID. This is the “real” reason why voters have been encouraged to vote by mail. Election Integrity NJ urges the New Jersey Legislature to put an end to the overuse and abuse of mail-in ballots. If you care about ensuring that our elections represent the true will of the people, I urge you to vote NO on A683.
http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2014/Bills/A1000/683_I1.PDF http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2014/Bills/A1000/683_S1.PDF http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2014/Bills/A1000/683_R1.PDF http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2014/Bills/A1000/683_S2.PDF
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To listen to Election Integrity NJ’s oral testimony:
http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/media/archive_audio2.asp?KEY=AAP&SESSION=2014 Thursday, March 8, 2014 — Skip to 04:00[/box_info]