SENATE, No. 92

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

217th LEGISLATURE

 

PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2016 SESSION

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator  JIM WHELAN

District 2 (Atlantic)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Revises “Overseas Residents Absentee Voting Law;” to mirror federal law; permits overseas voters to vote in any election; permits use of federal write-in absentee ballot to vote, register or request ballot for all elections.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel.

  


An Act concerning voting by New Jersey’s overseas residents, and amending and supplementing various parts of the statutory law.

 

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

 

     1.    Section 2 of P.L.1976, c.23 (C.19:59-2) is amended to read as follows:

     2.    As used in this act:

     a.     "United States" means each of the several states, the District of Columbia, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the United States Virgin Islands; the term does not mean or include the Canal Zone or any other territory or possession of the United States.

     b.    "Residing abroad" means residing outside the United States.

     c.     ["Federal election" means any general, special or primary held for the purpose of nominating or electing any candidate for the office of President or Vice President of the United States, Presidential elector, United States Senator or member of the United States House of Representatives] “Election” shall have the same meaning as defined in R.S.19:1-1, and include any federal, State, or local election, and any public question placed before the voters.

     d.    "Overseas voter" means any person in military service, or that person’s spouse, partner in civil union, domestic partner, or dependent, who, by reason of the person’s active duty or service, is, in the case of the person, absent on the date of an election from the place of residence in New Jersey where the person is or would be qualified to vote, [and] or in the case of the person’s spouse, partner in civil union, domestic partner, or dependent, absent on the date of an election from the place of residence in New Jersey where that spouse, partner in civil union, domestic partner, or dependent, is or would be qualified to vote.

     The term also means any citizen of the United States residing abroad who (1) immediately prior to [his] departure from the United States was domiciled in New Jersey and (a) was last registered to vote, or [had all the qualifications] last eligible to register and vote, in New Jersey; or (b) [had all the qualifications] would have been eligible to register and vote in New Jersey [other than having] except that the citizen had not attained 18 years of age [but has since attained that age] the requirement of which has since been met; or (c) would have been eligible to register and vote in New Jersey [, but for residence , have the qualifications to register and vote in New Jersey] except that the citizen had not met the residency requirement; (2) [does not maintain a residence in the United States and] is not registered or qualified to vote elsewhere in the United States; and (3) holds a valid passport or passport card [of identity and registration] or other proof of citizenship issued under authority of the Secretary of State of the United States.

     The term also means any citizen of the United States who was born outside of the United States, is not described above, and, except for the residency requirement of New Jersey, otherwise satisfies the State’s voter eligibility requirements, if the last place where a parent or legal guardian of the voter was, or under P.L.1976, c.23 (C.19:59-1 et seq.) would have been, eligible to register and vote before departure from the United States is within New Jersey and the voter has not previously registered to vote elsewhere in the United States.

     e.     "Electronic means" means any transmission made by an electronic telefacsimile machine or a similar device or by any other form of electronic transmission including, but not exclusive to electronic mail, that transports an authentic copy of a document from one user to another.

     f.     “Dependent” means an individual recognized as a dependent by a military service.

     g.    “Federal postcard application” means the application prescribed under section 101 of Pub.L.99-410 (42 U.S.C. s.1973ff(b)(2)).

     h.    “Federal write-in absentee ballot” means the ballot described under section 103 of Pub.L.99-410 (42 U.S.C. s.1973ff-2).

      i.    “Military service” means the active and reserve components of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard of the United States; the Merchant Marine; the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service or the commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States; or the National Guard or State militia.

(cf: P.L.2008, c.61, s.2)

 

     2.    Section 3 of P.L.1976, c.23 (C.19:59-3) is amended to read as follows:

     3.    Upon compliance with the provisions of this act, P.L.1976, c.23 (C.19:59-1 et seq.), any person meeting the qualifications of an ["Overseas voter"] overseas voter may register to vote and may apply for and vote by absentee ballot in any election held in the election district of this State in which the voter, or in the case of an overseas voter who was born outside of the United States described in paragraph (3) of subsection d. of section 2 of P.L.1976, c.23 (C.19:59-2), in which the voter’s parent or legal guardian, was formerly domiciled.

(cf: P.L.2008, c.61, s.3)

     3.    Section 4 of P.L.1976, c.23 (C.19:59-4) is amended to read as follows:

     4.    a.  Requests for an application to vote in an election as an overseas voter may be made by or on behalf of an applicant to the county clerk of the county in which the applicant, or in the case of an overseas voter who was born outside of the United States described in paragraph (3) of subsection d. of section 2 of P.L.1976, c.23 (C.19:59-2), in which the applicant’s parent or legal guardian, was formerly domiciled, or to the Secretary of State of New Jersey if the applicant does not know the county of [the applicant's] former domicile.  All such applications shall be forwarded to such voters by air mail or electronic means, if so requested by the voter. Any overseas voter requesting that an application for a ballot be sent to that voter by electronic means shall supply in the request to the Secretary of State or the county clerk, as appropriate, the telephone number and location to which the application is to be sent or the electronic address of the voter, as may be appropriate, and, if known, the address where the voter, or the voter’s parent or legal guardian, as appropriate, was domiciled before departure from the United States.  To qualify [an applicant] for a ballot to be sent [a ballot] by air mail [in order to vote in an election], the applicant's completed application shall be received by the appropriate county clerk or the Secretary of State on or before the thirtieth day preceding the election. To qualify [an applicant to be sent] for a ballot to be distributed by electronic means [in order to vote in an election], the applicant's completed application shall be received by the appropriate county clerk [on or before the fourth day] or the Secretary of State by 3:00 p.m. on the day preceding the election.

     b.    An overseas voter may use the federal postcard application form to register to vote or to apply for an overseas ballot for [a federal] any election.  The voter may send the form by air mail or electronic means to either the appropriate county clerk or the Secretary of State and, in the case of [an] the use of a federal postcard application for a ballot, may request that the ballot be sent by air mail or electronic means.  Any voter sending the form by electronic means shall also mail simultaneously the federal postcard application form to the appropriate county clerk or the Secretary of State.  Any federal postcard application for a ballot sent by an overseas voter and received by a county clerk or the Secretary of State shall also be considered a request for registration if that voter is not already registered.

     c.     An overseas voter may use the federal write-in absentee ballot to vote in an election or to vote in favor or against any public question placed before the voters in an election.  An overseas voter may use the federal write-in absentee ballot to register to vote, if that voter is not already registered, or to request an overseas ballot for all elections held during the calendar year in which the request is made.  The voter may send the federal write-in absentee ballot by air mail or electronic means to either the appropriate county clerk or the Secretary of State and, in the case of the use of a federal write-in absentee ballot as an application for an overseas ballot, may request that the ballot be sent by air mail or electronic means.  Any voter sending the federal write-in absentee ballot by electronic means shall also mail it simultaneously to the appropriate county clerk or the Secretary of State.

(cf: P.L.2008, c.61, s.4)

 

     4.    Section 5 of P.L.1976, c.23 (C.19:59-5) is amended to read as follows:

     5.    a.  [An] Other than a federal postcard application or federal write-in absentee ballot, an application for an overseas ballot shall be in substantially the following form:

     APPLICATION FOR AN OVERSEAS BALLOT

     I, the undersigned, certify the following as a basis for an application as citizen of the United States residing outside the United States to receive a ballot to be voted at the election to be held on ........ (date of election) [that is to say] for .......... (fill in elected office or public question, or both):

     1.    I am a citizen of the United States;

     2.    I presently reside at .................... (if mail should be addressed other than to my residence, also provide address for mail);

     3.    I was born on ..................... (month, day, year)

     4.    [a.] I hold a:

     a.     valid U.S. Passport # ............, dated .........., or

     b.    [I hold a United States Citizens Identity and Registration Card (Form FS 225) dated ............ issued by .................. (name and location of U.S. Embassy or Consulate)] valid U.S. Passport Card # ………., dated ………., or

     c.     valid Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-600), dated ………., or

     d.    other valid form of identification recognized as such under federal or state law: ………. (form of identification), dated ………..

     5.    a.  Immediately prior to taking up residence abroad I was domiciled in New Jersey and resided at ............ (street address), .............. (municipality), .............. (county) (If formerly registered to vote from that address check here    (     )  ) , or

     b.    I was born outside of the United States and my parent or legal guardian, before leaving the United States, was last domiciled in New Jersey, residing at ………. (street address), ………. (municipality), ……….(county).

     6.    I [do not maintain a domicile in the United States and] am not registered, entitled or applying to vote in any state other than New Jersey.

     7.    I understand that any false statement knowingly made in this application subjects me to the penalties provided by law for fraudulent voting.

           ....................           ..................... Applicant

                                      (Signature)

     Dated:.......................   .........................Applicant

                                      (Print or type name)

     b.    There shall also be sent to the applicant by air mail or electronic means such instructions and portions of the law or regulations as the Secretary of State shall direct.

     c.     Any overseas voter requesting that a ballot be sent to that voter by electronic means shall indicate on the application for the ballot the telephone number and location to which the ballot is to be sent or the electronic address of the voter, as may be appropriate.

(cf: P.L.2008, c.61, s.5)

 

     5.    Section 6 of P.L.1976, c.23 (C.19:59-6) is amended to read as follows:

     6.    Each county clerk, upon receipt of an application for an overseas ballot, including a federal postcard application, shall determine whether or not the applicant is qualified to vote such a ballot, make a list of those applications approved and disapproved, which list shall be open to inspection by election officials and the public, and shall forward an overseas ballot to each person whose application is approved. For each voter whose application is approved, the county clerk shall deliver to the county board of elections the completed application form for retention by the board for signature comparison with that on the certificate on the inner envelope containing the ballot upon its receipt.

(cf: P.L.2008, c.61, s.6)

 

     6.    Section 7 of P.L.1976, c.23 (C.19:59-7) is amended to read as follows:

     7.    [The] Other than a federal write-in absentee ballot, the county clerk shall prescribe the form of the overseas ballot.

(cf: P.L.2008, c.61, s.7)

 

     7.    Section 10 of P.L.1976, c.23 (C.19:59-10) is amended to read as follows:

     10.  a.  For overseas ballots other than such ballots sent to the voter by electronic means, the procedure for completing the ballot shall be as follows:

     Upon completion of the ballot by indicating the voter's choice of candidates for the offices named or the voter’s choice regarding a public question, or both, the ballot shall be placed in the inner envelope and sealed.  Upon completion and signing in the voter's handwriting the certificate attached to the inner envelope, the inner envelope shall be placed in the outer envelope, which when sealed shall be mailed postage prepaid to the county board of elections whose address is printed thereon.

     b.    For overseas ballots sent to the voter by electronic means, the procedure for completing the ballot shall be as follows:

     After the ballot is received and completed by the voter by indicating that person's choice of candidates for the offices named or that person’s choice regarding a public question, or both, the ballot shall be placed in a secure envelope. Upon completion and signing in the voter's handwriting of the certificate sent to the voter pursuant to section 8 of P.L.1976, c.23 (C.19:59-8), it shall be placed in the same envelope as the voted ballot.  The envelope shall then be sealed securely and sent immediately by air mail to the appropriate county board of elections in this State.

     c.     Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections a. and b. of this section, a copy of a voted overseas ballot may be transmitted by electronic means to the appropriate county board of elections in this State.  Such a ballot shall be subject to the provisions of sections 3 and 4 of P.L.1995, c.195 (C.19:59-14 and C.19:59-15).

(cf: P.L.2008, c.61, s.11)

 

     8.    Section 12 of P.L.1976, c.23 (C.19:59-12) is amended to read as follows:

     12.  An overseas voter may request, on any application form used, an overseas ballot for all elections held during the calendar year in which the request is made. Any instructions sent to an applicant pursuant to section 5 of P.L.1976, c.23 (C.19:59-5) shall inform the applicant that such a request may be made. If such a request is made, an overseas ballot shall be sent in a timely manner to the voter for all such elections and by the transmission method first requested by the voter unless the voter instructs otherwise.

(cf: P.L.2008, c.61, s.13)

 

     9.    (New section)  An electronic address provided by an overseas voter to the county clerk or the Secretary of State shall not be made available to the public or any individual or organization other than an authorized agent of the county clerk or the Secretary of State and shall be exempt from disclosure under P.L.1963, c.73 (C.47:1A-1 et seq.).  The address may be used only for official communications with the voter that are related to the voting process, including transmitting ballots and election materials if the voter has requested electronic transmission, and verifying the voter’s mailing address and physical location.  The request for an electronic address shall describe the purposes for which the electronic address may be used and include a statement that any other use or disclosure of the electronic address is prohibited.

 

     10.  (New section)  If a voter’s mistake or omission in the completion of a document does not prevent a determination of whether a voter is eligible to vote, the mistake or omission shall not invalidate the document.  Failure to satisfy a technical requirement, such as using paper or envelopes of a specified size or weight, shall not invalidate the submitted document.  In the case of a federal write-in absentee ballot or a vote for a write-in candidate on a regular ballot, if the intention of the voter is discernable, an abbreviation, misspelling, or other minor variation in the form of the name of a candidate or a political party shall be accepted as a valid vote.

     This section shall be applied consistent with the requirements of subsection d. of section 4 of P.L.1995, c.195 (C.19:59-15).

 

     11.  (New section)  A court may issue an injunction or grant other appropriate equitable relief to ensure substantial compliance with, or enforcement of, the “Overseas Residents Absentee Voting Law,” P.L.1976, c.23 (C.19:59-1 et seq.) on application by a voter alleging a grievance under that law or by an election official in this State.

 

     12.  Section 26 of P.L.2011, c.37 (C.19:59-16) is amended to read as follows:

     26.  For the purpose of complying with the federal “Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act,” 42 U.S.C. s.1973ff-1 et seq., the office of the Secretary of State shall:

     a.     be designated as the single State office responsible for providing information to all overseas voters who wish to register to vote or vote in any jurisdiction in the State with respect to voter registration procedures and vote by mail procedures to be used by overseas voters for all elections [for federal offices] ;

     b.    work with the federal Election Assistance Commission and the federal Department of Defense to develop standards to report data on the number of overseas voter ballots transmitted and received by mail or electronic means pursuant to the “Overseas Residents Absentee Voting Law,” P.L.1976, c.23 (C.19:59-1 et seq.) and section 7 of P.L.2004, c.88 (C.19:61-7); and

     c.     provide such additional information relating to voting by overseas voters from this State as the Department of Defense determines is necessary.

(cf: P.L.2011, c.37, s.26)

 

     13.  R.S.19:31-6  is amended to read as follows:

     19:31-6.  Any person qualified to vote in an election shall be entitled to vote in the election if the person shall have registered to vote on or before the 21st day preceding the election by: 

     a.     registering in person at any offices designated by the commissioner of registration for providing and receiving registration forms;

     b.    completing a voter registration form while applying for a motor vehicle driver's license from an agent of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, as provided for in section 24 of P.L.1994, c.182 (C.39:2-3.2);

     c.     completing and returning to the [Attorney General] Secretary of State or having returned thereto a voter registration form received from a voter registration agency, as defined in subsection a. of section 26 of P.L.1994, c.182 (C.19:31-6.11), while applying for services or assistance or seeking a recertification, renewal or change of address at an office of that agency;

     d.    completing and returning to the [Attorney General] Secretary of State a voter registration form obtained from a public agency, as defined in subsection a. of section 15 of P.L.1974, c.30 (C.19:31-6.3);

     e.     completing and returning to the [Attorney General] Secretary of State or having returned thereto a voter registration form received from a door-to-door canvass or mobile registration drive, as provided for in section 19 of P.L.1974, c.30 (C.19:31-6.7);

     f.     completing and returning to the [Attorney General] Secretary of State a federal mail voter registration form, as prescribed in subsection (b) of section 9 of the "National Voter Registration Act of 1993," (42 U.S.C. s.1973gg et seq.);

     g.    completing and returning to the [Attorney General] Secretary of State or the appropriate county clerk an application for a federal postcard application form to register to vote, or a federal write-in absentee ballot, as [provided for in] permitted pursuant to the "Overseas Absentee Voting Act" (42 U.S.C. s.1973ff-1 et seq.) and section 4 of P.L.1976, c.23 (C.19:59-4);or

     h.    completing a provisional ballot affirmation statement and voting the provisional ballot in the previous election, if the person who submitted the provisional ballot in that election is determined not to be a registered voter .

     When the commissioner has designated a place or places other than his office for receiving registrations, the commissioner shall cause to be published a notice in a newspaper circulated in the municipality wherein such place or places of registration shall be located.  Such notice shall be published pursuant to R.S.19:12-7.

     Any office designated by the commissioner of registration for receiving registration forms shall have displayed, in a conspicuous location, registration and voting instructions.  These instructions shall be the same as those provided for polling places under R.S.19:9-2 and shall be provided by the commissioner.

(cf: P.L.2005, c.139, s.8)

 

     14.  This act shall take effect on the 90th day after the date of enactment.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

This bill revises the “Overseas Residents Absentee Voting Law” to more closely resemble the federal overseas voting laws.  Based on the federal Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act, which was approved and recommended for enactment by the Uniform Law Commission in 2010, this bill would incorporate into New Jersey law those provisions that have not yet been adopted.  The bill adds definitions for previously undefined statutory terms, and expands the definition of “overseas voter” to expressly include legally recognized partners of military service personnel, voters born outside of the United States, and overseas voters with a residence in New Jersey.

The bill permits an overseas voter to use the federal write-in absentee ballot to vote, to register to vote, and to request an overseas ballot for all elections held in the State. Under current law, such ballots can be used to vote only in elections for federal offices.

Additionally, the bill permits the use of the federal postcard application to apply for an overseas ballot or to register to vote in all elections. Under the bill, for a ballot to be distributed via electronic means, the completed application must be received by 3 p.m. on the day preceding the election.  Under current law, the application must be received on or before the fourth day preceding the election.

The bill also eliminates references to an outdated form of identification and adds other types of valid identification that may be used in an application for an overseas ballot.  In addition to using a valid U.S. Passport, the bill permits an individual to use a valid U.S. Passport Card, a valid Certificate of Citizenship, or any other valid form of identification recognized under federal or State law.

The bill expressly limits the permitted uses, or disclosures, of a voter’s electronic address and requires that these limitations be described on the request to use an electronic address.  In completing any document under the provisions of this bill, a voter’s mistake or omission that is not substantive in nature would not invalidate the document.  On write-in ballots, where the intention of the voter is discernable, the ballot would not be invalidated.