In Brief

Bill would revive stalled rule requiring state’s voting machines leave paper trail

By: - February 16, 2022 6:39 am

(Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

For more than a decade, a New Jersey law requiring the state’s counties to use voting machines that can create a paper record of every vote cast has gone unenforced because of the amount of money it would cost counties.

That may soon change.

A new bill — sponsored by Sens. Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex) and Jim Beach (D-Camden) — would alter the rule by requiring counties to purchase machines that create a paper trail when older machines age out.

The bill would allow the New Jersey secretary of state to waive the requirement for machines used in an election before the bill’s effective date, which comes on the first day of the third month following its passage.

The proposal would bar the secretary of state from issuing such waivers for machines purchased or leased after that date.

Paper records can serve multiple purposes. Besides allowing voters to review their slips to ensure their votes were recorded correctly, they’re also used in election audits and recounts.

The old requirement, set to go into effect in January 2009, was never enforced because provisions of the law required it to be suspended until New Jersey received federal funds for statewide machine upgrades or appropriated money for the purpose in the state budget.

Those provisions appear to have been put in place to head off an unfavorable ruling from the Council on Local Mandates, which enforces a constitutional requirement that the state government pay for mandates it imposes.

The body in 2019 struck down a law that required county election officials to perpetually send vote-by-mail ballots to residents, finding the hundreds of thousands of additional ballots mailed as a result would unreasonably tax county budgets.

The Legislature passed a nearly identical bill in 2020 that included a $3 million appropriation and required the Legislature to provide annual funding for the program.

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Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.