On Thursday, the Assembly Appropriations Committee will consider A-4830, which requires in-person early voting period for certain elections and makes an appropriation to that end. InsiderNJ spoke with Hunterdon County Clerk Mary Melfi about the legislation, which she said represents a half measure as New Jersey undertakes improvements to its protocols following a COVID-19 elections-challenged 2020.
According to the bill: For the general election, each county board of elections shall designate at least three public locations within each county as the sites for early voting to occur, except that the county board shall designate at least five public locations for early voting if the number of registered voters in the county is at least 150,000 but less than 300,000, and shall designate at least seven public locations for early voting if the number of registered voters in the county is 300,000 or more.
“From what I read they are looking for a $20 million appropriation, but that is not even going to cover the cost of electronic poll books,” Melfi said. “They think the poll book is the be-all, that once we have electronic poll books we have everything we need to do early voting and we can have early voting.”
It’s not that simple, argued the clerk, who acknowledges the challenges of replacing old voting machines, which have presented new – and costly – hazards in other states. Moreover, “The statewide registration system is still not ready,” Melfi said. “It was not ready in the primary, it was not ready for a universal vote by mail and it certainly is not ready for early voting.
“I would like to see them approach it more on a business model,” the clerk added, in reference to the Legislature. “I don’t do anything without the input of the people wo help me.”
Clerk of her county since 2007, Melfi, a Republican, is up for reelection this year.
The full InsiderNJ interview can be viewed below: