The bipartisan proposal would also allow counties to consolidate voting locations, allowing election officials to staff voting locations with fewer poll workers. These measures are intended to give voters more time to register, and counties time to adjust to the Coronavirus pandemic. In addition to these one-time measures, the proposal would allow election officials to begin counting absentee ballots at 7 a.m. each election day going forward. Presently, counting cannot begin until after polls are closed, which county officials argue delays results.
The deal resulting in the legislation was reached over the weekend with bipartisan support from legislative leadership and the governor’s administration. It was incorporated by amendment into SB422, a bill previously passed by the Senate to create an advisory board on election bills, in a unanimous House vote on Tuesday, March 24. The House will hold a final vote on the amended bill on Wednesday, March 25. It is expected to pass and reach Governor Tom Wolf’s desk for signature by the end of this week.
In Delaware, governor John Carney postponed primaries from April 28 until June 2 through a modification to his prior COVID 19-related state of emergency declaration on March 24. The declaration also temporarily qualifies all citizens practicing social distancing per CDC instruction to vote by absentee ballot by classifying such individuals as “sick or physically disabled” under the requisite Delaware Code provision.
Though New Jersey has rescheduled several local elections taking place in March and April, it has not yet moved the state’s June 2 primary elections, which this year will include U.S. Senator Cory Booker’s bid for re-nomination. The local election postponements were made pursuant to Governor Phil Murphy’s March 19 executive order. In a press briefing held on the same date, Governor Murphy confirmed no change to the June 2 primaries, though he did not rule out future action. Since then, the New Jersey Assembly has passed A-3863 which would extend the petition filing deadline for all candidates seeking to participate in the primary by two weeks, from March 30 until April 13. No vote on this has yet been scheduled in the Senate.
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Author Gaetano Piccirilli is a partner in the litigation department at Klehr Harrison.