Speaker of the Assembly: Election night results will be more transparent in NJ. Opinion
Craig J. by Coughlin
If you look across the country these days, how to conduct elections in a fair and transparent manner is not an issue on which Democrats and Republicans have been able to find much consensus. But that could happen in Washington or other states, just as New Jersey legislators did in June.
Shortly after the election last November, we noticed that there were some issues in the way the results were declared which were creating confusion. Even though the election was fair and ballots were counted accurately, the way they were reported on election night didn’t always matter most.
Rather than back away from our own partisan corners, we decided to listen to some of the concerns of the people. And we realized that the people concerned had some good points.
Here’s the problem: When our election systems were created several hundred years ago, they were designed so that farmers could take a day to travel from country to city and vote. The world we live in today looks nothing like the world we live in, and we’ve updated our voting system to reflect that—now it’s more convenient than ever to vote in New Jersey. You can register to vote when you update your driver’s license. You can choose to receive the ballot in the mail. You can vote in person a few days in advance, at a time that is convenient for your schedule.
All this is very healthy for our democracy. Maybe you have two jobs and need to work both on Election Day. Maybe a long commute home after a demanding work and then picking up the kids and eating at the table means that you don’t have time to carefully consider all the issues in the election. Maybe you are a student from another city or state. It does not mean that you lose your voice in the democratic process.
But while we did a lot of work to make voting more accessible, we didn’t update the way we report results for people coming in on election night. This created confusion. For example, some people fell asleep on election night thinking their county had reported all ballots, only to find that when they checked the next morning, tens of thousands more ballots were cast and they became suspicious. .
It wasn’t because tens of thousands more ballots actually showed up – it’s just that we weren’t being transparent that many mail-in ballots weren’t counted yet. That’s why one of our new laws requires that the people counting the ballots tell you how many of them gross The number of ballots is counted, not just the number of ballots cast on Election Day.
There were other problems that we resolved. Some thought the last election took too long to count, partly because election workers were not allowed to touch mail-in ballots until voting closed.
Our law now allows election workers to safely and securely remove ballots from envelopes, ensure they were legally cast, and prepare them for counting so that as soon as voting closes, only one The thing that needs to be done is to count them. No one will be allowed to know the results of those ballots, but it means that in future elections, we will get election night results much faster.
We worked on these issues in a bipartisan manner and then introduced several bills in March – making them publicly available for about two months before the hearings began. During that time, we talked to election activists, voting rights experts, county clerks, and anyone else who wanted to meet. Then we had three public hearings on the law before the full assembly voted in June.
The result is that Democrats and Republicans are coming together to make sure that when you vote, you know that your vote is counted safely and fairly. And if you want to follow election night results, you can view those results in a transparent and easily understandable way.
The only way to strengthen our democracy is to make sure we can all participate, and that people have confidence in the results and the process. Working together across the aisle, we accomplished just that.
As proud as I am of the final product, I am even more proud to say that in New Jersey, we are still able to work together to ensure that you, the voter, make decisions about our future. There are ones, and you can trust and easily understand that process.
New Jersey General Assembly President Craig J. Coughlin represents the 19th Legislative District, which includes Carteret, Perth Amboy, South Amboy, Sereville and Woodbridge in Middlesex County.
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