New Jersey recently passed a law banning police from being 100 feet near polling stations or ballot drop boxes in order to prevent “voter intimidation.”
The law, devised by Democrat legislators and advocates, was signed by Gov. Bill Murphy after it passed the Democrat-controlled legislator with the minimum number of votes needed in the Senate. According to lawmakers, the bill is intended to prevent the intimidation of minority voters.
Senator Shirley Turner said the law has its roots in an election decades ago where Ballot Security Task Forces were assigned to polling stations to ostensibly protect against voter fraud.
“I remember back in 1981 when Republicans had plain-clothed police officers at the polls,” Sen. Shirley Turner told NJ Advance Media when the bill passed the Senate. “It was intimidation. They were doing it to suppress the vote.”
Now, Shirley says the law is to prevent the intimidation of minorities — especially the Black community — who may feel uncomfortable around the presence of police officers.
“To many in the Black community, just the sight of a police officer is enough to make the hair on the back of their neck stand up. Regardless of the intention officers may have in visiting polling places to check in, the reality is their presence will make individuals feel unsafe and could discourage them from participating in the election,” Turner said.
Legislators argued that the law is necessary after a consent decree previously barring police officers from polling stations had recently expired.
Assemblywoman Reynolds-Jackson, a Democrat from Mercer, added the bill was in support of civil rights.
“We are in unprecedented times in this nation. 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,” Reynolds-Jackson stated.
Democrats also lauded the bill as a way to ensure that individuals on parole or probation will not feel intimidated to vote.
The new law states that police must be 100 feet away from polling stations at all times unless they are voting or responding to an emergency.