Gov. Murphy signs bill to make November election mostly mail-only in New Jersey

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Saturday, August 29, 2020
NJ to mail out ballots, but voters will have several options for turning them in
Gov. Phil Murphy offered more details about the vote-by-mail plan for the general election in November.

TRENTON, New Jersey -- New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday signed into law legislation to conduct November's presidential election nearly entirely by mail.

Murphy signed the bills just a day after the Democrat-led Legislature sent them to his desk.

They come in the face of a lawsuit from Republican President Donald Trump's campaign to halt an executive order Murphy signed earlier this month requiring a mostly mail-in election.

The GOP lawsuit argued that the governor's order amounted to a "usurpation" of the Legislature's powers.

The legislation "really undercuts" part of the suit, Democratic Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker said in an interview.

Murphy had cited concerns over the spread of the coronavirus earlier this month when he signed an executive order requiring that every active registered voter be sent a ballot with a prepaid return envelope in time for the Nov. 3 general election.

In a statement on Friday, Murphy invoked the outbreak as the reason for the change.

"Even in the face of a pandemic, we are firmly committed to ensuring a safe and inclusive General Election," Murphy said.

The order by and large meant the general would proceed like the July primary, but with some changes, including doubling the minimum number of drop boxes at which voters can leave ballots from five per county to 10. The governor also mandated that poll workers accept voters' mail-in ballot in person at polling places. In July, only provisional voting was approved to take place in person.

Murphy signed three bills Friday:

- One requires drop boxes for voters to deposit their mail-in ballots to be installed 45 days before the election, which would be Sept. 19. The law requires that the boxes be available 24 hours a day and have security cameras. The measure also implements changes Murphy called for in his August executive order.

- Another bill requires the secretary of state, who is in charge of the state's elections, to create public awareness materials about voting by mail, including information on how to check the status of a mailed ballot.

- The third measure lets voters use a confidential system to see whether their ballot was accepted, according to the sponsors. It also calls for mailed-in ballots not to be rejected for physical defects involving envelopes. The measure also includes so-called ballot curing provisions that say a county board of elections must notify voters within 24 hours if a ballot is rejected and then give the voter an opportunity fix the problem with the ballot.

The Trump campaign's lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey earlier this month. It has not been heard by a judge yet.

A message seeking comment was left with the president's attorneys.