The Assembly Appropriations Committee advanced a bill today that would require ballot privacy sleeves during the voting process, require districts to provide vote tallies and mandate that voters sign mail-in ballots using electronic signatures uploaded to the statewide voter registration system.
Representing county clerks in New Jersey, Dale Florio testified that low turnout, particularly evident in early voting, allows a determined person to find out who voted in specific districts if vote counts are expected to come from them.
“By requiring it by district, you run the risk of exposing who the voter is,” Florio said, acknowledging that additional privacy protections and flexibility for clerks don’t offset the problem. “Once that data is inputted into the machine, it’s there.”
Florio noted that county clerks are concerned that the electronic signatures could raise the potential for fraud and cures, which allows voters to fix ballots with errors, noting roughly a third of the 50,000 mail-in ballots returned in the 2020 election were due to signature issues.
Assemblymember Herb Conaway (D-Burlington) questioned Florio’s first concern about districts being responsible for vote tallies, but did express concern about electronic signatures not matching for voters.
“Your vote itself is a private issue but that you voted is not private, and it hasn’t been private,” he said.
While the bill advanced, most Assemblymembers agreed the bill has kinks that need to be worked out before it hits the floor for a vote.
HAPPY TUESDAY AFTERNOON — Hi there, I’m Jonathan Custodio, your Playbook PM author. We’re adding New Jersey political trivia to this newsletter and will shout out one person who correctly answers the question in the following day’s edition.
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We’re here with the latest from Trenton and elsewhere as New Jersey moves ahead in the budget process and the Legislature conducts hearings on Gov. Phil Murphy’s spending plan.
HE BETTER BUY A GREAT MOTHER’S DAY GIFT NEXT YEAR — A new super PAC has amassed a huge war chest to spend on behalf of Republican 3rd District congressional candidate Bob Healey Jr., and most of the money comes from his mother.
Garden State Advance, which formed in mid-March, received a $2 million donation from Ellen Healey of Wellington, Fla., according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. The only other contribution — $25,000 — came from Jonathan Lumbert of Naples, Fla., who runs a Philadelphia-based boutique investment advisory firm.
Healey Jr. last week won the Republican primary to take on two-term Democratic incumbent Andy Kim in November. — Matt Friedman
COVID NUMBERS— New Jersey reported 2,111 confirmed positive Covid-19 tests and 20 deaths from the virus on Tuesday as federal advisers weigh a possibly elevated risk of heart inflammation among young men who receive the Moderna vaccine versus the Pfizer/BioNTech shot.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: CASINO SMOKING — The state’s top public health groups are pushing the Legislature to advance a ban on indoor casino smoking. In a letter obtained by POLITICO and sent to Senate President Nick Scutari, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and health chairs in both houses, public health groups expressed frustration that the bill NJ A2151 (22R) / NJ S264 (22R) — which has seen a surge of bipartisan support in recent months — has yet to advance.
“We are dismayed by the delay and are concerned that these workers’ health is not being given the urgent attention it deserves,” the letter says. “Every day that passes is another day in which these workers are unnecessarily exposed to the toxic chemicals from their smoke-filled workplace. The scientific evidence is clear: There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”
The bill has been dormant in the Legislature for well over a decade but has seen dozens of lawmakers sign on in support in recent months. Despite the newfound support, the legislation is not scheduled for a committee hearing, with Atlantic City casino workers and patrons likely facing another summer with indoor smoking.
Signatories include the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Medical Society of New Jersey, New Jersey Public Health Association, New Jersey Prevention Network, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights and Atlantic Prevention Resources. — Daniel Han
NURSE FILES WHISTLEBLOWER SUIT AGAINST COOPER HEALTH CARE — NJ Advance Media’s Ted Sherman: “The pediatric specialist would often show up to work impaired or intoxicated, claimed a nurse who worked with her….
‘At times, (the doctor) was incapable of formulating basic sentences,’ claimed lawyers for Allison Stec, an advanced practice nurse at Cooper University Health Care in Camden of the physician, who said the doctor at times ‘could not spell basic words,’ or was unable to stand without leaning against a wall. The doctor made careless errors, including treating the wrong patient or prescribing the wrong medication, before the pediatrician’s own untimely death.
Now, Stec, who still works at the hospital, is taking Cooper Health Care to court.
In a whistleblower lawsuit, her attorneys claim she was subjected to retaliation by the hospital for simply doing her job with integrity, when she reported that the welfare of patients was being endangered.”
STATE ORDERS 51K DOSES OF COVID VAX FOR KIDS — NorthJersey.com’s Scott Fallon: “With federal approval expected this week, Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration has pre-ordered 51,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5 years and is encouraging providers to extend their hours and prioritize young kids.
But will the demand be there?
Vaccine hesitancy among parents is high despite efforts by pediatricians and public health officials to encourage shots and add a significant layer of protection against the virus. It’s been an uphill battle because children are at far less risk of severe illness from COVID. Physicians have also been fighting a widespread disinformation campaign waged on social media.”
COURT UPHOLDS ‘AID IN DYING’ LAW — NJ Advance Media’s Susan K. Livio: “A state appeals court has upheld New Jersey’s three-year-old Medicaid Aid in Dying law that has allowed 95 terminally ill residents to end their lives by taking a lethal dose of medications prescribed by a doctor.
A doctor and rabbi, Yosef Glassman, a pharmacist and an observant Hindu, Manish Pujara, and a resident with a terminal illness, Anthony Petro, challenged the law on religious grounds. They had appealed a 2020 trial court decision preserving the law, arguing it violates the New Jersey Constitution and ‘presents a danger to all New Jersey citizens’ because it could result in ‘a non-voluntary death’ by coercion.”
— More bad behavior by adults running youth sports: A coach in Branchburg assaulted a 72-year-old umpire, breaking his jaw.
— Prosecutors in Passaic County are investigating the death of a 21-month-old child at a day care center in Clifton.
— Amtrak trains will be going faster through New Jersey, thanks to some infrastructure upgrades.
— The rising cost of fuel and food is affecting New Jersey’s food banks.