Beginning in the November General Election, any voter not wanting to go to the polls on Election Day has the option of voting early by mail-in ballot.
Last year if voters wanted to vote early, in advance of a scheduled election, they would complete an absentee ballot application and submit it to their County Clerk's office. This year, because of new legislation, those voters will be requesting a "mail-in" ballot instead.
New early voting legislation (P.L. 2009, ch. 79) was passed and signed into law in July of 2009, changing the rules surrounding what used to be known as "absentee voting." Beginning in the November General Election, any voter not wanting to go to the polls on Election Day has the option of voting early by mail-in ballot. As with the former absentee ballot, no reason needs to be provided in order to vote early by mail. The only criteria for doing so are that the voter must be registered to vote in his/her county and must submit a mail-in ballot application to the County Clerk's office by the required deadline.
The new "Application for Mail-In Ballot" looks different from the previous absentee ballot application and offers the voter revised options. Prior to P.L. 2009, ch. 79, any voter who was permanently disabled could, by way of one application per year, receive absentee ballots for all elections in one calendar year. A voter also could request that a ballot application be mailed to him for all future general elections. Both of these options have been replaced with the following:
a) Calendar Year Elections: any voter (no longer just permanently disabled) can now request, with one application, that he receive mail-in ballots for all elections in that calendar year.
b) All General Elections: any voter can request, with a one-time application, that he receive a mail-in ballot for all future general elections, until the voter requests the County Clerk to discontinue such service. NOTE: If such voter does not return a mail-in ballot within a four-year general election timeframe, the County Clerk will send the voter a notice to inquire if he still wants to receive automatic mail-in ballots for general elections. If the voter doesn't respond to the notice by the 40th day before the next general election, the clerk will suspend automatic ballots to that voter.
Voters should note that the two above options are not mutually exclusive, i.e., a voter, by way of one application, can receive mail-in ballots for the calendar year and for all future general elections. Further, while the new mail-in ballot application offers voters additional voting options, voters may use the application for just a single election. (If, however, a voter requests a mail-in ballot for the Annual School Election, he automatically will receive a mail-in ballot for any subsequent special school elections, up until the next annual school election.)
Another change to the ballot application deals with the use of an authorized messenger. In the past, an authorized messenger could only be used if a voter was sick or confined, while under the revised law any voter can apply for, and obtain, a mail-in ballot by way of authorized messenger. (Authorized messengers must still be a family member of the voter or a registered voter of the county and may only apply for, and obtain, mail-in ballots for a maximum of 10 voters per election.)
Important deadlines to note:
Applications for mail-in ballots must be received in the County Clerk's Office a minimum of seven days before the election. If a voter cannot meet that deadline, s/he may apply for, and vote, a mail-in ballot in person at the Clerk's Office up until 3 p.m. the day before the election.
Voting instructions will be provided to the voter along with his/her mail-in ballot. The voted ballot must be received by the County Board of Elections by the close of polls on Election Day.
For more information on election dates and deadlines, visit the County Clerk's Web site at www.sussexcountyclerk.com or call our office at 973-579-0900.