New Jersey Council on Local Mandates rules automatic vote by mail law is unconstitutional.

The New Jersey Council on Local Mandates as ruled that the state’s automatic vote by mail law, passed by the Democratic lead legislature, is an unconstitutional unfunded mandate.   Before the 2018 law voters had to request a vote by mail ballot for each election.  The new law required County Clerks to automatically issue vote by mail ballots to registered voters who previously requested them.   The New Jersey Association of Counties to filed the complaint with the Council on Local Mandates insisting the law violates the state constitution’s prohibition on unfunded mandates because of the expenses to process, print and mail the additional mail in ballots.   The Council ruled that the law’s requirements should “cease to be mandatory in their effect and shall forthwith expire.”

“In absence of any funding of the mandate, we find and determine that the challenged laws constitute unfunded mandates,” the council said in a memo announcing its decision.   The Council on Local Mandates “has the exclusive constitutional authority to rule that a State law, rule, or regulation imposes an unconstitutional ‘unfunded mandate’ on boards of education, counties, or municipalities,” according to its website.

The new law caused confusion for many voters who showed up at the polls only to be told they had received a mail in ballot had to complete a provisional ballot.  Only about half of the 600,000 New Jersey voters who received mail in ballots returned them in 2019.  

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