On August 28, 2019, Governor Murphy signed into law a bill that amended the 2018 Vote By Mail law and mandates that County Clerks statewide send their voters a Vote By Mail Ballot* for the upcoming November 5, 2019 General Election and all future elections if the voter requested and received a Vote By Mail Ballot in any election held in 2017 or 2018. (S4069/A5759 P.L. 2019 c. 265)
Following are some answers to questions voters have raised about how the new law might affect them:
#1 Q: I voted a paper ballot in person at my County Clerk’s Office for the 2017 Primary Election. Why am I on the “All Future Elections” vote-by-mail list?
A: While you didn’t technically “vote by mail” you did vote a “Vote by Mail/Absentee” ballot when you applied for an early paper ballot at your Clerk’s Office. If you want to continue voting early in person at your Clerk’s Office, then you should notify your county clerk that you want your name removed from the “All Future Elections” vote-by-mail list. Likewise, if you want to be able to go to your regular polling place and vote on the voting machines, you should notify your clerk to remove your name from the list as well. As long as your name is on the list to receive mail-in ballots, you will NOT be able to vote on the voting machines at your polling place or in person at your county clerk’s office.
#2 Q: I voted by mail in the 2018 General Election because I was going to be out of town on Election Day, but I prefer going to the polls. What do I have to do?
A: You need to “opt out.” You should have received a notice and “Opt-Out” form from your County Clerk’s Office in September, advising you of your new status to automatically receive mail-in ballots for all future elections. You should return the “Opt-Out” form to notify your clerk that you want your name removed from the ALL FUTURE ELECTIONS vote-by-mail list. If you no longer have the form, simply write to your county clerk and tell them you want your name removed from the list; be sure to include your full name, address, date of birth, and phone number.
NOTE: Voters on the ALL FUTURE ELECTIONS vote-by-mail list can choose to opt-out at any time; SEE Question #6.
#3 Q: I was overseas in 2018 when I voted by absentee/mail-in ballot. I applied using a Federal Postcard Application (FPCA). Am I on a list to automatically receive mail-in ballots?
A: No. There is no provision in the new law to transfer FPCA applicants to an “All Future Election” designation. If you want to vote by mail in every future election (you’re eligible for), you will have to apply using the Application For Vote By Mail Ballot and check ALL FUTURE ELECTIONS in Section 1. However, this application does not provide all of the voting options afforded by applying via the FPCA.
#4 Q: I voted by mail in the 2017 general election, and I indicated on my application that I wanted to be put on the list to automatically receive mail-in ballots for All General Elections Only. Is this still an option?
A: No. The new law only offers voters two options: vote by mail in every future election, OR apply for a mail-in ballot for a single election. After the 2018 General Election, our office contacted voters who were on the list to receive mail-in ballots for “All General Elections” to advise them that option is no longer available. These voters were provided with the updated Vote By Mail Ballot Application and (at that time) could choose to have their name added to the “All Future Elections” vote-by-mail list, or only apply for a mail-in ballot in singular elections of their choosing. However, the 2019 law now puts anyone who voted by mail in 2017 or 2018 on the “All Future Elections” Vote By Mail list. If you do not want to automatically receive mail-in ballots for all future elections, you will need to submit an Opt Out form to our office.
#5 Q: I received an “Opt-Out” notice from my county clerk, but I like voting by mail. Do I have to opt-out?
A: No. If you are on the ALL FUTURE ELECTIONS vote-by-mail list and are receiving mail-in ballots automatically, and that is how you want to vote, then you should not opt out. Simply do nothing. You will continue to receive mail-in ballots automatically for every future election until you notify the county clerk that you no longer wish to receive mail-in ballots.
#6 Q: I received a notification letter and optional “Opt-Out” form from my county clerk, but I missed the Sept. 25 deadline to mail it back. Can I still opt out of receiving mail-in ballots?
A: Yes, it is never too late to opt out. However, depending on when your opt-out form is received, it may be too late to stop your ballot from being mailed to you for the current election cycle. If the Clerk receives your opt-out form after September, your ballot may already have been mailed to you. This is because clerks are required by law to begin mailing ballots 45 days before Election Day. If your mail-in ballot was already mailed for the 2019 General Election, you should vote that ballot because you will not be permitted to vote on the voting machines at your regular polling place. The clerk will process your opt-out form in time for the next scheduled election, so that you will not automatically receive a ballot for that election.
#7 Q: If I opt out of remaining on the permanent vote-by-mail list, can I still vote by mail sometimes?
A: Yes. You will simply have to complete an Application For Vote By Mail Ballot for each election in which you want to vote by mail.
#8 Q: I think I may have voted by mail last year, or maybe in the 2017 June Primary. Does that mean I am on the list to receive mail-in ballots for ALL FUTURE ELECTIONS?
A: Yes. If you voted by mail (or by paper ballot in person at our office) you should have received a notification letter from us advising you that your name has been placed on the “All Future Elections” mailing list. Along with that notification letter was an “Opt Out” form. If you want to remain on the All Future Election list then do nothing. If you want off the list, then complete the Opt Out form and return it to our office by Sept. 25 or as soon as possible thereafter.