New Jersey Legislature Approves Early Voting Bill, Awaits Christie’s Signature

New Jersey is one of a dwindling number of states that doesn’t allow its residents to cast in-person votes prior to Election Day. That could change for the Garden State with a stroke of Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) pen.

Late last week, the State Assembly passed S 2364 by a 46-31 vote, following the Senate’s 24-16 approval. The bill would open polling places for 15 days before Election Day, giving residents flexibility to cast a ballot at their convenience. However, Christie has yet to take a position on the matter, and some prognosticators suspect he’ll veto the bill.

New Jersey currently allows citizens to mail in a ballot early, but there’s still a strong need for in-person early voting, as the New Jersey Star-Ledger explains:

The vote was mostly along party lines, which could indicate the governor is unlikely to sign the legislation.

Under the bill, polling places would be open all week, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. The cost of the program is estimated at $22 million, although sponsors said it could be done more cheaply without buying costly new equipment.

Democrats say voting complications caused by Hurricane Sandy demonstrate the need for the program.

Early voting is an important and popular voting reform that arose primarily after the 2000 presidential election debacle. Now, all but 16 states offer some form of early voting. Americans take advantage of the option, too; around one-third of all voters now cast their ballots before Election Day, including nearly 80 percent in some states like Colorado.