July 29, 2021

MORRIS COUNTY AFRO-AMERICAN NEWS

MORRIS COUNTY AFRO-AMERICAN NEWS

Bill barring police from polling places clears Assembly, stalls in Senate

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Assemblywoman Verlina-Reynolds Jackson (D-Trenton)

The Assembly advanced a measure barring police officers from loitering within 100 feet of a polling place or drop box Thursday, but the bill stalled in the Senate despite a past version clearing the chamber in a narrow vote last month.

The bill is a bid to prevent the resurgence of actions undertaken by the infamous National Ballot Security Task Force, a group of off-duty police and sheriff’s officers who intimidated voters, largely non-white ones, away from the polls in 1981 at the behest of the Republican National Committee.

“We are in unprecedented times in this nation,” Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Trenton) said. “A voter’s right to cast their ballot in person may very well be jeopardized as made clear in past commentary by former President Trump. Voter intimidation tactics and suppression have no place in New Jersey. We’ve seen the punitive effects of these anti-civil rights strategies in other states as well as in New Jersey in the past.”

The Ballot Security Task Force, after a lawsuit from the Democratic National Committee, led to a consent decree barring similar deployments, but that lapsed in 2018.

The bill also bars election boards and law enforcement agencies from assigning officers to polling locations, though that won’t apply to officers called to address a specific incident.

Lawmakers in the Senate were unable to secure the 21 votes needed to advance the bill.

It also enacts a prohibition on electioneering within 100 feet of a ballot drop box. That prohibition will prevent drop box rallies many congressional candidates turned to as a way of getting out the vote last year.

“A voter’s right to cast their ballot is a constitutional right that should remain unencumbered, and unthreatened,” said Assemblyman Wimberly (D-Paterson). “Voter intimidation and suppression comes in many forms and can happen anywhere. We’ve seen this done before right here in New Jersey. This legislation makes it clear that there’s no place for these tactics here, in this general election or future elections.”