SENATE, No. 3039

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

219th LEGISLATURE

INTRODUCED OCTOBER 19, 2020

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator† TROY SINGLETON

District 7 (Burlington)

Senator† SHIRLEY K. TURNER

District 15 (Hunterdon and Mercer)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

†††† Allows mail-in voter to cure mail-in ballot due to missing certificate.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

†††† As introduced.

††


An Act concerning the curing of a mail-in ballot due to a missing certificate and amending P.L.2009, c.79.

 

†††† Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

†††† 1.††† Section 17 of P.L.2009, c.79 (C.19:63-17) is amended to read as follows:†

†††† 17.† a.† The county board of elections shall, promptly after receiving each mail-in ballot, remove the inner envelope containing the ballot from the outer envelope and shall compare the signature and the information contained on the flap of the inner envelope with the signature and information contained in the respective requests for mail-in ballots and the signature and information contained in the Statewide voter registration system.† In addition, as to mail-in ballots issued less than seven days prior to an election, the county board of elections shall also check to establish that the mail-in voter did not vote in person.† The county board shall reject such a ballot if it is not satisfied, pursuant to a comparison with the Statewide voter registration system, that the voter is legally entitled to vote and that the ballot conforms with the requirements of this act.† The county board of elections shall conduct the determination of qualification of each voter in accordance with the requirements of the Certificate of Mail-in Voter pursuant to section 13 of P.L.2009, c.79 (C.19:63-13). When the voter failed to include the Certificate of Mail-in Voter, the county board of elections shall permit the voter to cure the mail-in ballot as provided under subsection b. of this section.†

†††† In the case of a mail-in ballot to be voted at a primary election for the general election, the ballot shall be rejected if the mail-in voter has indicated in the certificate the voter's intention to vote in a primary election of any political party in which the voter is not entitled to vote according to the Statewide voter registration system, and if it shall appear from the record that the voter is not entitled to vote in a primary election of the political party which has been so indicated.

†††† Any mail-in ballot which is received by a county board of elections shall be rejected if† the inner† envelope is unsealed or if either the inner or outer envelope has a seal that has been tampered with. Mail-in ballots shall not be rejected due to any defect arising out of or relating to the preparation or mailing of the ballot or envelope that was not reasonably caused by the voters, such as a torn envelope and missing or insufficient glue to allow the ballot to be sealed.

†††† Disputes about the qualifications of a mail-in voter to vote or about whether or not or how any mail-in ballot shall be counted in

such election shall be referred to the Superior Court for determination, as provided under section 4 of P.L.2020, c.70 (C.19:63-17.1).

†††† After such investigation, the county board of elections shall detach or separate the certificate from the inner envelope containing the mail-in ballot, unless it has been rejected by it or by the Superior Court, marking the envelope so as to identify the election district in which the ballot contained therein is to be voted as indicated by the voter's home address appearing on the certificate attached to or accompanying the inner envelope and, in the case of ballots to be voted at a primary election for a general election, so as to identify the political party in the primary election of which it is to be voted.

†††† The location at which a county board of elections determines whether a mail-in ballot shall be accepted or rejected shall be considered an election district for the purposes of appointment of challengers.

†††† b.††† The county board of elections shall, promptly after receiving each mail-in ballot, undertake the following procedures and requirements concerning the acceptance or rejection of each mail-in ballot:

†††† (1)†† within 24 hours after the decision has been made to reject a voter's mail-in or provisional ballot on the basis of a missing signature or discrepant signature, issue a "Cure Letter" by mail or email to the voter whose ballot was rejected, which shall inform the voter of that fact and provide the reasoning for rejection, and attempt to contact the voter by telephone, if a telephone number is available.† The cure letter shall include a "Cure Form" and the form shall include the voter's name and instruct the voter on how to cure the alleged or actual deficiency. Cure forms shall not be referred to as affidavits or certifications and shall not be required to be sworn;

†††† (2)†† when the alleged or actual deficiency involves the signature of the voter, instruct the voter that they may cure the deficiency by completing the cure form and returning it to the county board of elections in person, by fax, or by email, not later than† 48 hours prior to the final certification of the results† of the election, or by returning it to the county board of elections by mail, and that the completed cure form must be received by the county board of elections not later than 48 hours prior to the final certification of the results of the election;

†††† (3)†† include, with the cure letter, when sent by mail, a pre-printed cure form and a postage-paid return envelope addressed to the county board of elections which the voter may use to return the cure form; [and]

†††† (4)†† inform voters that they shall not be required to submit any form of hard-copy identification document or copy thereof in order to cure a signature deficiency, but may do so by declaring that they submitted their provisional ballot or mail-in ballot, and verifying their identity by either: (a) providing a valid New Jersey driver's license number or Motor Vehicle Commission non-driver identification number; or (b) if the voter does not have a valid New Jersey driver's license number or Motor Vehicle Commission non-driver identification number, then by providing the last four digits of their Social Security Number; or (c) if the voter does not have the identification in (a) or (b), then attaching a legible copy of a New Jersey State-accepted form of identification, including either a sample ballot which lists the voter's name and address, an official federal, State, county, or municipal document which lists the voter's name and address, or a utility bill, telephone bill, or tax or rent receipt which lists the voter's name and address; and (d) signing and dating the cure form prior to returning it; and

†††† (5) †when the voter failed to include the Certificate of Mail-in Voter required pursuant to section 13 of P.L.2009, c.79 (C.19:63-13), provide the voter, along with the Cure Letter and Cure Form, with a substantially similar certificate for the voter to complete in order to cure the voterís mail-in ballot in accordance with the same requirements, procedures, and timeframes specified in this subsection.

†††† c.†††† If a voter† returns a completed cure form in a timely manner and the information provided verifies the voter's identity, pursuant to this section, their otherwise valid mail-in or provisional ballot shall be counted in the final election results irrespective of any signature deficiency previously identified and, under those circumstances, the cure form may not be verified or authenticated using signature matching.

†††† d.††† In accordance with this section, variations in voter signatures caused by the substitution of initials for the first name, middle name, or both, shall not be grounds for the county board of elections to determine that the signatures are non-conforming or do not match.

†††† e.†††† In cases of rejected ballots, the county board of elections shall retain the voter's outer envelope, inner envelope, self-certification certificate, and mail-in ballot in a bundle unique to each voter for a period of two years in accordance with section 24 of P.L.2009, c.79 (C.19:63-24).

†††† f.†††† County boards of elections shall be required to meet at least once each week during the three-week period preceding each election to conduct the ballot processing and curing provisions specified in this section, and shall meet more frequently as may be required by the Secretary of State to ensure the timely processing of ballots.

†††† The Secretary of State shall prepare educational materials regarding this section that all employed county boards of elections employees handling ballots shall read and have available for review.† The materials shall provide clear information regarding the standards for acceptance and rejection of mail-in ballots and the safe-keeping of all materials in the case of rejection.† The materials shall serve an educational purpose for the county board of elections and shall not replace, supersede, or void the authority of the county board or a judge of the Superior Court to accept or reject a mail-in ballot.

(cf: P.L.2020, c.71, s.12)††††††

 

†††† 2. †This act shall take effect immediately.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

†††† This bill allows a mail-in voter to cure their mail-in ballot due to a missing mail-in voter certificate.

†††† Under current law, each mail-in voter is required to complete the Certificate of Mail-in Voter that is attached to the flap of the mail-in ballot inner envelope. By completing the certificate, the mail-in voter certifies, subject to the penalties for fraudulent voting: the voterís address, that the voter is the person who applied for the enclosed ballot, that the voter marked the ballot in secret, and that a family member may provide assistance to the voter. The mail-in voter is required to sign the certificate. Furthermore, the certificate requires any person who provided assistance to the voter in marking the ballot to complete a portion of the certificate on which that person certifies that the person assisted the voter, and declares that the person will maintain the secrecy of the voterís ballot. The person who provided assistance is also required to provide the personís signature, printed name, and address on the certificate.

†††† Under this bill, when the voter failed to include the Certificate of Mail-in Voter, the county board of elections would be required to provide the voter, along with the Cure Letter and Cure Form, with a substantially similar certificate for the voter to complete in order to cure the voterís mail-in ballot in accordance with the same requirements, procedures, and timeframes specified for ballot curing due to a missing or discrepant signature.