New Jersey voters express broad support for easier voting access

Paula Plotkin processes mail-in ballots at Bergen Community College

In this Oct. 24, 2020, file photo, Paula Plotkin processes mail-in ballots at Bergen Community College in Paramus, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Garden State voters want more election reforms, according to a recent poll.

Those who participated expressed support for a wide variety of changes to make it easier to vote. Among the reforms that have broad support are increasing the number of locations and extending hours for in-person early voting, paying poll workers more, and requiring that employers give paid time off to vote.

The poll was commissioned by the Newark-based social justice nonprofit Project Ready and conducted by Change Research.

“I think the goal is to continue to make our democracy equitable,” said Shennell McCloud, executive director of Project Ready. “In order to continue to make it equitable, we have to be able to institute reforms that appeal to all.”

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McCloud noted that more voters participated in this past election than in elections prior. She attributed that to increased availability to register and cast a ballot.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy ordered the July primary and November general elections to be conducted through the mail. All registered voters received a mail ballot whether they applied for one or not. Completed ballots were either mailed in, dropped off at secure dropoff boxes or turned over to poll workers on Election Day.

A majority of those surveyed by Project Ready gave a “good” or “excellent” rating for how the November election was handled. But when broken up by party, 96% of Democrats gave the state a positive rating, while 86% of Republicans assessed it negatively. The state GOP sued to stop the mail election, but a judge ruled against it.

The poll also showed a partisan split over whether a ballot should be mailed in every election; 87% of Democrats supported the idea, while 92% of Republicans opposed it.

McCloud said that the reforms implemented by the Legislature to accommodate the election this year have proven popular.

“That excites me because I think what we were able to see in 2020 is, in some places, a complete overhaul in how we’re doing voting,” she said, while crediting Murphy for being “flexible and nimble” as Election Day drew near. “I think that we can see community members across the state opening up more to what it could look like to offer more opportunities for people to be able to exercise their vote.”

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The poll of 958 New Jersey voters was conducted between Nov. 21 and 24 with a 3.7% margin of error.

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