PRIMARY 2021: Steinhardt, Ciattarelli release competing N.J. election integrity agendas

TRENTON, N.J. – The leading candidates for this year’s NJGOP gubernatorial nomination both dropped competing voter integrity reform plans on Friday, an issue which is obviously near the top of the minds of most Republican primary voters. A recent poll found only 24% of Republicans trusted the 2020 results.

“Democratic elections are the foundation of our Constitutional Republic,” said former NJGOP Chairman Doug Steinhardt in a statement accompanying his own plan. “Phil Murphy has punted on voter integrity and left New Jersey voters feeling insecure and disenfranchised. As Governor, I will make election integrity a top priority of my Administration. We will follow the simple rule that every legal vote counts.”

“Under Murphy’s leadership on elections, we had issues ofvoters receiving duplicate ballots, current homeowners receiving ballots addressed to the previous homeowner; and ballots addressed to dead people were an embarrassment for our state and it cannot be repeated,” said former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli in his own release. “As we institute “early voting” by machine, we need to fix these other issues so  voters can feel confidence that their vote – and the votes of their neighbors – are legal and secure, and that the results of the election are valid.”

New Jersey Democrats are currently working on an early voting system but believe it may not be ready before 2022. Governor Murphy’s all mail-in 2020 elections were widely criticized by the opposition party and, in some instances, led to problems. At least two elections have had to be redone (one in Paterson, and another still pending in Atlantic County).

Both GOP candidates agree on cleaning up the voter rolls.

Steinhardt is promising voter in-person elections for every election and a ban on foreign machines; Ciattarelli is pushing for voter ID in addition to other changes.

Ciattarelli’s plan was originally unveiled back in August 2020.

Here are both candidates’ respective bullet points (without editing):

Steinhardt’s Voter Integrity Plan

1. IN PERSON VOTING FOR EVERY ELECTION. No pandemic or political crisis, real or manufactured, will replace a person’s lawful ability to vote in person. If we can wait on eight-hour lines for the privilege of a driver’s license at Phil Murphy’s failing DMV, we can stand on line at our polling place and vote. As Governor, vote by mail, while an option, will never again replace a voter’s lawful right to vote in person. 

2. VET OUR VOTER ROLLS. Voters who have passed away, moved to another state, or changed their name for legal reasons must have those updates reflected in poll books. As Governor, I will facilitate better communication between agencies and make cleaning up the State’s antiquated voter rolls a top priority. 

3. NO FOREIGN MADE VOTING MACHINES. As we become increasingly concerned with foreign actors interfering in our domestic elections, my Administration will take definitive steps to secure the machines we use to conduct them. As Governor, I will demand that New Jersey voting machines are American made, using American parts and software. 

Ciattarelli’s Voter Integrity Plan

1.    Requiring photo identification from all voters at the polls before they cast their vote. To remove any concern about the availability for of photo identification among for those who don’t drive, the state should make an official photo ID available to all residents who want one at no cost to the individual. For voters who choose to vote by mail, they would need to certify their identify to elections officials in advance of receiving a mail-in ballot. 

2.    Modernizing our elections by joining 14 others states in requiring paper ballots through the use of optical scan voting machines for tabulation of results, as well as providing ballot marking devices for voters with disabilities.  The fact that New Jersey’s 21 counties don’t have uniformity security and accessibility in terms of the voting machines they use is unacceptable.

3.    Regularly removing inactive voters from the voter rolls. Instead of waiting at least two consecutive federal elections to pass before a voter is considered inactive, we should recognize as inactive anyone who hasn’t voted in four consecutive years. People can be notified by mail of the pending removal. If they want to remain on the rolls, they would be required to simply inform County election officials.

4.    Working in concert with our county election officials to pass a legislative solution allowing for early in-person voting on machines prior to Election Day, to ease potential lines at polling places and expand access to citizens across the state who for one reason or another may not be able make it to the polls on Election Day, but would prefer not to cast their ballot via the mail.