Can Election Candidate Assist Voters In Preparing Their Ballots Because of Illness or Disability ?
In In re Thirteen Ballots Cast in 1985 General Election in Burlington County, 209 N.J. Super. 286, 289, 507 A.2d 314, 315 (1985), the question before the court was the validity of 13 absentee ballots in a local election that had been delivered to the election board with certifications that the voters had been assisted by a candidate in the election in preparing their ballots because of illness or disability. In re Thirteen Ballots, 209 N.J. Super. at 288, 507 A.2d at 315.
The New Jersey statute provided for assistance to an incapacitated absentee voter, but specifically provided that "in no event may a candidate for election provide such assistance, nor may any person, at the time of providing such assistance, campaign or electioneer on behalf of any candidate." In re Thirteen Ballots, 209 N.J. Super. at 288, 507 A.2d at 315.
The court then quoted section 1973aa-6 of the Voting Rights Act and noted that the issue before it was which provision controlled--the state or federal. In re Thirteen Ballots, 209 N.J. Super. at 289, 507 A.2d at 315.
The In re Thirteen Ballots court concluded that "the New Jersey statute is not affected by the quoted provision of the Voting Rights Act when national candidates are not running for election." In re Thirteen Ballots, 209 N.J. Super. at 289, 507 A.2d at 315.
According to the court, "the clear purpose of the New Jersey statute's prohibition against absentee voter assistance by a candidate is the prevention of fraud.
The prospect of improper influence of voter choices in such circumstances is obvious and underlined by problems previously reported [in other elections in New Jersey]." In re Thirteen Ballots, 209 N.J. Super. at 289, 507 A.2d at 315.
In rejecting the superiority of the Voting Rights Act to the state election at issue, the In re Thirteen Ballots court stated:
"The federal statute ignores the possibilities of fraud in its provisions permitting assistance to absentee voters.
It is not our role to debate its wisdom.
We are, however, obliged to recognize its limitations.
The Voting Rights Act and amendments thereto provided Congress with authority to control national elections and, to a limited extent, state elections.
Its control of the latter is confined to the ensactment of legislation enforcing provisions of the United States Constitution, notably, in the present case, its Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Nineteenth and Twenty-fourth Amendments.
The majority of the United States Supreme Court so held in Oregon v. Mitchell, 400 U.S. 112, 91 S.Ct. 260, 27 L. Ed.2d 272 (1970), in which, among other things, it upheld the provisions of the act lowering the voting age to 18 in national elections, but struck down the extension of those provisions to state and local elections." In re Thirteen Ballots, 209 N.J. Super. at 289, 507 A.2d at 315.