Monday, March 8, 2021
If approved and signed into law, New Jersey’s Early Voting bill will require the availability of early voting by machines up to 10 days prior to primary and general elections. But the burden of implementing this state-mandate will fall to the state’s 21 counties. Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson wants assurance that the counties will not be left to foot the bills.
“This is not the time to be incurring additional expenses as we continue to struggle to contain costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated Levinson. “In the state with the highest taxes in the country, we should be looking for ways to cut rather than add to our tax burden.”
The Early Voting bill will require Atlantic County to purchase new optical-scan voting machines and electronic poll books in addition to creating a security plan for five early voting locations, hiring and training workers, investing in new technology for communications, and providing security, storage and maintenance of machines.
Voting machines would have to be in place four days prior to a non-presidential primary election day, six days prior to a presidential primary election day and 10 days prior to a general election day, according to the bill.
“The State of New Jersey is mandating this so it needs to provide the money up front, not as a promised reimbursement after the fact. We can’t afford for history to repeat itself. The state failed to make its pension contributions while Atlantic County never missed a payment. It also failed to honor its full funding commitment for our vocational schools and community colleges. The state cannot continue to kick the can down the road and expect the counties and municipalities to bear the financial burden.”
The New Jersey Association of Counties noted that the bill only includes funding for printing ballots on demand, not the purchase of new voting machines and electronic poll books as required. Some have questioned the constitutionality of such an “unfunded” mandate.
“My job is to protect the Atlantic County taxpayers, especially during these uncertain times,” said Levinson. “Whatever happened to state mandates, state pays?”