In Brief

Senate panel to consider letting overseas residents vote in state, local races

By: - November 12, 2021 6:50 am

A man entering a polling place in Ocean Grove on Nov. 2. (Daniella Heminghaus for New Jersey Monitor)

State senators will consider a bill Monday that would allow New Jerseyans living abroad to cast ballots in certain elections.

The measure, which cleared the Assembly in party-line votes in June, would allow U.S. citizens living overseas to vote in state and federal elections if they lived and were last eligible to vote in New Jersey before leaving the country.

It would also allow foreign-born American citizens to vote in federal elections if their parent, guardian, spouse or domestic partner would have been eligible to vote in New Jersey before leaving the country.

Under current law, New Jerseyans living outside the country can vote only in federal races, and they must have been last registered to vote in the Garden State.

The Senate State Government Committee is expected to amend its version of the bill to comport with the one passed by the Assembly in June. Currently the upper-chamber version would let New Jerseyans living abroad cast ballots in races for local office and on local ballot measures.

After the bill was introduced in the Assembly in January, Republicans raised concerns about allowing overseas residents to vote on local representation in towns they may not ever return to. The measure was amended to explicitly ban those voters from casting ballots in local races, but that’s expected to change next week.

Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Monmouth), the bill’s chief Assembly sponsor, said the measure will be amended again to allow voters who are certain they will return to the United States to vote in local races. Under the planned changes, the ban would remain in place for voters who cannot say whether they will return to the United States.

Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar piece of legislation in 2016. He said it made little sense allowing people who might never have lived in the state — and who might never do so — to vote on state and local races.

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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.