TRENTON – Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin today issued guidance to New Jersey’s law enforcement leaders concerning new rules about law enforcement activity relating to elections. The Acting Attorney General also reinforced past guidance designed to ensure that all eligible voters can cast their ballot safely and without fear of intimidation.
Originally issued in 2020 following troubling reports of voter interference in other states, and updated in 2021 to reflect New Jersey’s historic adoption of in-person early voting, the guidance is now being updated to reflect the January 2022 enactment of legislation that imposes new limits on law enforcement officers’ activity around polling places, early voting locations, and ballot drop boxes.
“New Jersey is fully committed to protecting the right to vote in free and fair democratic elections,” said Acting Attorney General Platkin. “The role of law enforcement officers in elections is limited, but we have zero tolerance for criminal acts of voter intimidation or interference.”
The updated guidance is addressed to the state’s law enforcement chief executives and County Prosecutors, and points out that civilian election officials—not law enforcement officers—are in charge of administering elections at the county and local levels.
At the state level, the Division of Elections within the Office of the Secretary of State is entrusted with election-administration responsibilities—not the Department of Law & Public Safety or the Office of the Attorney General.
In light of the recent legislation, today’s guidance highlights five key rules designed to protect the voting process in New Jersey while avoiding polling place, early voting site, and ballot drop-box conditions that may be disconcerting or intimidating to some residents.
- Although a poll worker may request police officers to assist in preserving the peace and order in and about an early voting location or a polling place, a poll worker may make such a request only with regard to a “specific emergency, allegation of criminal conduct, or disturbance that exists at the time the request for assistance is made.” When such a request is made, officers who respond to the call may remain at the site only for as long as it takes to address and resolve the emergency, criminal allegation or disturbance.
- When any officer is dispatched to an early voting location or polling place, the Secretary of State shall be notified by the county board of elections or county election superintendent. The Secretary of State, county boards of election and election superintendents must maintain a record of such dispatches, including such information as time of dispatch, polling place location and reason for the dispatch, as well as the name of the officer involved, badge number, length of the officer’s presence on site and the immediate outcome of the incident.
- Police officers may continue to assist, and be assigned to assist, election officials with the transport of specific election materials to and from an early voting location, polling place or ballot drop box.
- No police officer – whether on-duty or off-duty, and whether in or out of uniform – can remain or stand within 100 feet of an early voting location, polling place, or ballot drop box during an election, unless the officer is there at the request of election officials in response to a specific emergency. Exceptions apply, such as if an officer’s residence is within 100 feet of these locations or if the officer is voting in a personal capacity.
- No full-time or part-time law enforcement officer can serve as a poll worker or an authorized elections challenger unless that individual is off-duty. Under no circumstances can an officer participating as a poll worker or authorized challenger wear a police officer’s uniform or carry an exposed weapon.
As with prior election guidance, today’s update reiterates that federal as well as state laws protect all members of the public from intimidation and coercion, interfering with the right to cast a vote, or tampering, mutilating, or destroying a ballot box, and that individuals engaged in voter intimidation or obstruction also may be in violation of laws that do not pertain specifically to elections.
Acting Attorney General Platkin’s updated guidance is posted at https://www.nj.gov/oag/dcj/agguide/2022_Law-Enforcement-Guidance-for-Elections.pdf
Residents with concerns about voting and elections are encouraged to call the Division of Elections at its Voting Information & Assistance Line: 877-NJVOTER (877-658-6837). For more information, please visit the NJ Division of Elections Voter Information Portal at https://nj.gov/state/elections/vote.shtml.