On April 9 Governor Murphy signed into law legislation that would require ballot drop boxes at certain locations under certain circumstances. Specifically, P.L. 2021, c. 44 would require at least one ballot drop box beginning with the 2021 General Election at any county government building that is the main office of the County Clerk, in each municipality with 5,000 or more residents, at the main campus of each State College or Universities and at the main campus of each independent four-year college or university with enrollments larger than 5,000 students. If two or more ballot drop boxes are separated by a distance of less than 2,000 feet the Board of Elections must determine a secondary location in the same municipality but a different location. Whenever possible at least one ballot drop box must be located in a municipality with an average per capita income or a median family income at or below 250% of the federal poverty guideline.
Each county must have at least 10 ballot drop boxes. The County Board of Elections, to the best of their ability, must place secure ballot drop boxes based on geographic location and population density to best serve the voters of each county in compliance with guidelines adopted by the Secretary of State. All ballot drop boxes locations must be ADA compliant and are subject to the same compliance oversight applicable to polling locations under N.J.S.A. 19:8-3.3.
The Secretary of State, in consultation with the county board of elections must establish guidelines for the placement of the ballot drop boxes, security of the ballot drop boxes, and schedule for ballot pickup from the ballot drop boxes. The guidelines must ensure the secure and successful implementation of the mail-in ballot drop boxes as well was adequate access in various geographic areas of the county. In determining the ballot drop boxes, at the minimum, consideration must be given to the concentration of population, geographic areas, voter convenience, proximity to public transportation, community-based locations, travel time to the location, proximity to other voting locations and ballot drop boxes, commuter traffic patterns, and security.
The guidelines must include, but may not be limited to, criteria for each county board of elections to:
(1) determine the number of ballot drop boxes required per voter population, considering both the number of registered voters and the number of registered mail-in voters in each county before each election;
(2) select the geographic location of each ballot drop box, ensuring an equitable distribution of ballot drop boxes across the county to maximize convenience to voters;
(3) ensure the accessibility of ballot drop boxes and drop box locations to persons with disabilities; and
(4) maintain the security of ballot drop boxes and of the ballots deposited therein, including standards and procedures for ballot retrieval by authorized persons only, and for ensuring the proper chain of custody and safe storage of voted mail-in ballots before each election.
The County Clerk must include the locations of the ballot drop boxes established in the county along with the instructions furnished with the mail-in ballot package sent to each mail-in voter. At least 45 days prior to each election, the County Board of Elections must publish on their respective websites the location of the ballot drop boxes in each county, and provide this information to the Secretary of State for publishing the same on the Division of Elections website.
This new law took effect on April 9, 2021 and will apply to the 2021 General Election.
Contact: Lori Buckelew, Assistant Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481, x112.