Plaintiffs in NJ Lawsuit Establishing Fair Ballot Signature Match Process Applaud Ballot Cure Act

Issues

Bill Signed by Governor Codifies and Strengthens Lawsuit Resolution

NEWARK, NJ — Plaintiffs and their counsel in the LWV New Jersey v. Way lawsuit today applauded the New Jersey legislature for passing, and Gov. Phil Murphy for signing, the Ballot Cure Act (A4276), establishing a notice and cure process for mail-in and provisional ballots in New Jersey for future elections. The bill was signed by the Governor late Friday and codifies into law provisions from the lawsuit settlement as well as other voter protections advocated for by the parties.

The following can be attributed to the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, the Campaign Legal Center, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, the New Jersey State Conference of the NAACP and Kaufman Lieb Lebowitz & Frick LLP:

“We are living through extremely challenging times, including public health and economic crises of huge proportions. These crises have disproportionately hit Black and other communities of color as well as other struggling families.

“As we face what’s arguably the most important election in modern times, where voters will be choosing leaders to represent their interests as we navigate these troubled waters, voting should be made as easy, safe and accessible as possible for every voter, and no one’s vote should be denied.

“We appreciate that the State worked hand in hand with us to settle our lawsuit for the primary election so that thousands of New Jersey voters were able to ensure that their votes counted in July. Now, with passage of the Ballot Cure Act, the voter protections established by that order, in addition to several more, will be the law of the land in New Jersey – benefitting all New Jersey voters. We are deeply appreciative of the New Jersey Legislature, and particularly sponsors Asm. Andrew Zwicker and Sen. Vin Gopal, for codifying into law the Consent Order that the parties agreed to in the litigation and for accepting our additional recommendations to strengthen the Ballot Cure Act so that we will now have a strong process for New Jersey voters. 

“We are grateful that Gov. Murphy and the New Jersey Legislature have taken these meaningful democracy-protecting steps.”

Background

LWV New Jersey v Way, filed May 18, 2020, challenged New Jersey’s practice of rejecting vote-by-mail ballots due to signature match issues without providing voters a timely opportunity to “cure” any discrepancies and have their votes counted.

As a result of a settlement between the New Jersey Secretary of State and the plaintiffs in the lawsuit – League of Women Voters of NJ, the NAACP New Jersey State Conference and an individual plaintiff – a process was put in place for the July 7 primary election to provide notice of rejection due to signature match issues and an opportunity to cure the issue in time for voters to have their votes counted. The Division of Election reportedly said that almost 7,000 ballot rejections were prevented when voters returned cure letters in the primary election.

With the signing of the Ballot Cure Act, such protections and others have been codified into law for the coming November general election and all future elections. This is particularly meaningful for voters of color who, during the challenging public health and economic crises, have so much at stake in the upcoming election and are at higher risk of being disenfranchised.

In addition to the provisions from the litigation settlement, The Ballot Cure Act provides the following voter protections:

  • Notice of Signature Matching: Provisional ballots, vote-by-mail ballots, and vote-by-mail ballot applications will notify voters that their signatures will be used for ballot verification and that the information they provide on their application or on their provisional ballot will be used to contact them in the event there is an issue with their ballot.
  • Review by Boards of Elections: County boards of elections will meet at least once weekly in the three weeks before Election Day to begin reviewing mail-in ballots for signature issues and grant the Secretary of State power to require additional meetings as necessary to process ballots.
  • Collecting Voter Information for Notification: Vote-by-mail applications, vote-by-mail ballots and provisional ballots will have space for voters to add their email addresses and phone numbers so that they may receive notice of a possible signature issue in their ballot through those means (becomes effective in Feb. 2021).
  • Ballots Not Rejected When Voter Faultless: In the event of a defect not reasonably caused by the voter, such as a torn envelope or missing or insufficient glue to seal ballot envelopes, ballots may not be rejected.
  • Website tracking: Expands the online voter information website to allow voters to track the status of their ballot.
  • Voter’s Bill of Rights: The Voter’s Bill of Rights is expanded to include ballot curing procedures.