NJ lawmakers pass measure updating vote-by-mail law; Republicans displeased

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New Jersey lawmakers have passed legislation aimed at eliminating confusion surrounding the state's 2018 vote-by-mail law.

The Democrat-led Assembly passed the measure Tuesday, sending it to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy. The Democrat-controlled Senate approved the bill Monday. Murphy's office says he intends to sign the bill.

The measure updates a 2018 law that mandated that voters who signed up for and got mail-in ballots for the 2016 general election would continue to get those ballots for future elections, unless they opt out.

Lawmakers say that the law, however, failed to address those who requested 2017 and 2018 mail-in ballots. The new measure requires that those voters also get mail-in ballots unless they opt out.

Democratic lawmakers say that the new law will be beneficial to New Jersey voters.

"We've seen tremendous uptick in voter participation and we've seen a tremendous drive of people that are going towards vote-by-mail, so it's a consumer-driven product that people like,” says Democratic Assemblyman Lou Greenwald.

But some Republican lawmakers say that they are not happy with this new law. They objected to the late summer voting session. The Legislature is normally in recess until after Labor Day. Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick says the measure will help Democrats maintain a permanent majority in the Legislature.

"When you have a state that has 1 million more Democrats than Republicans, obviously it benefits the Democrats to have as many vote-by-mail ballots out there as possible. And if it didn't benefit them, they surely wouldn't be here in the last week of August, I can tell you that,” Bramnick says.

Bramnick says that he believes that when Democrats increase their majorities, their policies will become increasingly liberal, much to the detriment of voters.

"I don't think they're extreme - I think most people are in the middle,” Bramnick says. “Gov. [Tom} Kean said that years ago, 70% of the people are in the middle, I think that's where most voters want their Legislature to be."

But Greenwald says that the GOP is just out of touch and doesn’t know what the voters really want.

"When you're out of touch, over and over and over again, it doesn't matter the vehicle by which people vote, they're going to vote against you,” he says.

The bill also sets aside $2 million for counties to implement the law.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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