A New Jersey lawmaker has introduced a bill that will require the State to provide the capability to vote in person to all voters in all elections. This bill is one in a set of bills introduced by Republican Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger to protect election integrity in New Jersey.
In 2020 Scharfenberger also introduced a bill requiring voters to present proof of identity when voting and a bill to purge ineligible voters from voter rolls. Scharfenberger plans to introduce in a few days a new bill requiring the New Jersey government to establish a hotline for reporting election fraud.
Voters go to the polls at Sara Smith Elementary polling station, in the Buckhead district, in Atlanta during the Georgia Senate runoff elections, on Jan. 5, 2021. (Virginie Kippelen/AFP via Getty Images)
Voting in Person
The bill requiring that all elections in New Jersey provide voters with the capability to vote in person at polling places was introduced by Scharfenberger in February. The measure also prohibits the governor from restricting the right to vote in person without the New Jersey legislature’s approval while preserving voter’s right to choose to vote by mail.
“The Legislature has been wrongfully cut-out from having any real say in these decisions—that cannot continue any longer,” Scharfenberger said in a statement, referring to Democrat Governor Phil Murphy’s Executive Order taking away the ability to vote in person in the 2020 election on the grounds of limiting the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
“These are not some arbitrary choices with little impact, we are dealing with constitutional rights,” Scharfenberger said in the statement.
“My office was inundated with calls and emails and texts from people who were very upset that they could not go to the polls … they [felt] that they were disenfranchised,” Scharfenberger told The Epoch Time in an interview on March 5. He said that among constituents who called him were people of all political persuasions.
Many citizens wanted to go to vote in person because they felt it was their right, Scharfenberger added. “That’s the way they’ve always voted and they feel most comfortable and I think that’s only fair.”
“The arguments that they made were very compelling, … they would go into a Home Depot or Lowe’s, and there would be massive crowds, yet they were prohibited from going to a polling station where they would go one at a time into a booth,” Scharfenberger said.
COVID-19 safety precautions such as wearing masks, using disinfectants, and spacing people out could have been easily applied at polling stations, Scharfenberger said, similar to how they were applied in stores or on public transportation.
Initially in New Jersey, anybody could request a vote by mail-in ballot and that system worked well, Scharfenberger said, but a year or two before the pandemic, the New Jersey State administration began to send vote-by-mail ballots to all who had requested it anytime in the past. That upset and confused people who usually vote in person but voted by mail occasionally due to being away or other reasons, Scharfenberger said.
In the November 2020 election, when mail ballots were sent to all voters, there were many erroneous ballots sent, Scharfenberger said. He added that he received calls from people who received ballots for their relatives who had passed away long ago or moved out of the state, or from married women who had changed their name and received two ballots—one under their maiden name and one of their married name.
Prohibiting in-person voting is denying people the right to be able to physically go to a poll, Scharfenberger said. But if erroneous ballots “ended up in the wrong hands, they could be open to fraud, “ he added.
Virginia voters head to the polls at Nottingham Elementary School in Arlington, Va. on Nov. 5, 2019. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Voter ID at Polling Places
Another bill introduced by Scharfenberger together with Republican Assemblyman Kevin Rooney requires registered voters to present identification when voting at a polling place. The bill lists 12 types of acceptable IDs such as a New Jersey driver’s license, U.S. passport, employment ID, birth certificate, or student ID.
The measure, introduced in June 2020, does not exclude voters who do not possess any of the 12 identification types from voting. They can still provide two pieces of “supplemental identification” like a proof of residence, a utility bill, a mortgage, or rental statement.
If they are unable to provide even any supplemental identification they may be challenged, but the legislation still gives challenged voters an opportunity to establish their right to vote before their district’s board of elections.
Scharfenberger said his constituents told him that when they went to vote nobody asked them for any ID and that they were appalled by it. Identification is needed to rent a car, to pick up tickets to a minor league baseball game, and to apply for food stamps so there is no reason not to extend the same sort of protection to voters, Scharfenberger said.
Voters should be able to show some form of ID to prove who they are, Scharfenberger said. “The public would want this and understands why it’s important. It’s just another layer of safeguarding the honesty and integrity of the elections.”
Cleansing the Voter Rolls
Lucas Sae, 22, (L) turns in his voter registration form to temporary worker Loren Quiroz (R) as his father Ramiro Saez looks on, at the Miami-Dade County Elections Department in Doral, Fla., on Oct. 6, 2020. (Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo)
Scharfenberger in December also introduced a bill to cleanse the voter rolls of ineligible voters. The bill requires state authorities to establish in New Jersey “a voter list maintenance and crosscheck program” in order to keep voter lists accurate and up-to-date.
Under the program, a new statewide secure voter registration system would be established and maintained, according to the bill. The new system should provide the capability to verify information about newly registered voters and remove duplicates, non-resident, deceased, or ineligible voters from the voter rolls.
It is “very haphazard” when people deceased for years, sometimes decades, still remain on the voter list, Scharfenberger said. Another “huge problem” is people being registered in multiple states, he said. Scharfenberger does not blame people for it. If someone’s relative passes away or someone moves for their job to another state, those people have a lot on their minds and are too occupied to notify authorities to update their voter record, he said.
Therefore Scharfenberger proposed the use of computer software called Crosscheck, which scans all the voter rolls, and identifies ineligible voters whose names should be removed, using social security numbers or other information. The system findings can be verified by reaching out to people picked up by the system, Scharfenberger said.
Such a system would resolve issues where people have two names because they got married or divorced, he added. “At least you know that the rolls would be accurate and you can feel confident that whoever is on those voter rolls are legitimate voters,” he added.
Voter Fraud Hotline
Scharfenberger plans to introduce a new bill soon that will require the New Jersey government to establish a hotline for reporting voter fraud. He said it’s important that people who got a hold of a deceased person’s ballot or are aware of other irregularities have an avenue to report on these events. “It’s just another tool to be able to keep fraud to a minimum,” he said.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie arrives to deliver the State of the State Address in the Assembly Chambers at the Statehouse in Trenton, New Jersey, on Jan. 14, 2014. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
The bills introduced by Scharfenberger have been co-sponsored by several Republican lawmakers, but he plans to get Democratic lawmakers to co-sponsor them: “I’m hoping to get a bipartisan push,” he said.
Several Democrats were receptive to ideas presented in these election integrity-related bills, Scharfenberger said. “I’m going to appeal to their sense of fair play, that we really all benefit—both parties—from honest, accurate elections.”
“This is the most basic component of choosing a leadership so the other issues can be debated and addressed. … This is the most basic, basic right—we have to be able to choose our leaders and who we want to represent us. And I think every patriotic American citizen could live with the results of any election as long as they’re confident that it was fair enough,” Scharfenberger said.
“I think these bills will legitimize elections from now on.”