Panel rules N.J. vote-by-mail law is unconstitutional

TRENTON, N.J. –The Council of Local Mandates (which few New Jerseyans have ever heard of) made a potentially momentous decision this week, announcing on Friday that New Jersey’s controversial vote by mail law mandate – requiring overwhelmed county clerks to automatically issue ballots to registered voters who previously requested them – should “cease to be mandatory in their effect and shall forthwith expire.”

“In absence of any funding of the mandate, we find and determine that the challenged laws constitute unfunded mandates,” the obscure state council explained in its ruling memorandum.

The 2018 law boosted voter participation but also drew a formal challenge from the New Jersey Association of Counties; the organization argued that the Phil Murphy-backed law’s onerous requirements constituted an unconstitutional unfunded mandate.

What happens next remains to be seen.

Democrats consider the law a vital part of their get-out-the-vote strategy, and many 2019 state races were impacted by the VBM law. For example, in LD2, incumbent Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo (D-2) trailed on the machines at the end of Election Day but ultimately won by 2,255 votes after vote by mail ballots were counted.

Unfunded mandate concerns, critics have also cited voter fraud and philosophical concerns pertaining to whether mass early voting is healthy for the democratic process.