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New Jersey lawmakers approve bills expanding voting rights as GOP-led states move to restrict access

The first bill, given final passage from the state Senate on Thursday in a 28-8 vote, would allow residents to vote 10 days before a general election at specially designated polling sites, according to a release from the New Jersey Senate Democrats. The bill only applies to a June primary or a November general election, according to the lawmakers, but municipalities could adopt an early voting period by ordinance for other elections. The senators also clarified that those who participate in early voting would not be allowed to vote by mail or in person.
A spokesperson for Gov. Phil Murphy said that the governor intends to sign the early voting bill on Tuesday.
A second bill sent to the governor gives the county board of elections the ability to determine the location of ballot drop boxes, the lawmakers’ release said. The state General Assembly and Senate gave final approval to the measure on Thursday.
The New Jersey bills stand in stark contrast to efforts by Republican lawmakers around the US who are pushing to restrict access to the ballot box following record turnout in the November election. As of February, state legislators in 43 states have introduced more than 250 bills with restrictive voting provisions, according to a tally from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.
“Our accountability over government, opportunities to better our lives and the chance to elect our representatives all depend upon our ability to access the ballot,” said state Democratic Sen. Nia Gill, a sponsor of the bill allowing people to vote 10 days before an election.
“Passing early voting and implementing electronic poll books will ensure our fundamental right to have our voices heard,” she added.
Among the states that have been working to pass restrictive voting measures is Georgia, whose Republican governor approved last week a sweeping elections bill that imposes voter identification requirements for absentee ballots, empowers state officials to take over local elections boards, limits the use of ballot drop boxes and makes it a crime to approach voters in line to give them food and water.
Republicans in the state cast it as necessary to boost confidence in elections after the 2020 election saw former President Donald Trump make repeated, unsubstantiated claims of fraud. But national Democrats have seized on the new law as well as others percolating around the country in their effort to pass new federal voting rights protections.
In addition to the two bills before Murphy, the New Jersey Assembly has also passed additional legislation that would aim to prevent voter intimidation prohibiting the deployment of police for non-emergency situations like standing guard, according to a release from several assembly members.
The bill would also prohibit a law enforcement officer from sitting on a Board of Elections unless they are off-duty and having an officer within 100 feet of a polling place or a ballot drop box.
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