Lawmakers reintroduce bill that would allow police officers at polling sites amid mass shooting concerns

State lawmakers are looking to advance a revamped bill that would allow a police presence at polling sites.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill nine months ago that banned police from polling places on election night. But in the wake of recent mass shootings, lawmakers say the protection is needed - and there's support on both sides of the aisle.
Assembly Member Hal Wirths says he knows the original bill well because he fought it on the floor for a long time. That bill said plainclothed officers and uniformed officers had to be at least 100 feet away from polling sites or drop boxes unless there was a threat or they were called by poll workers.
"Sometimes they rush things through and just don't get it right and I'm proud that they're correcting it, but this should have never happened," says Wirths.
The Assembly Appropriations Committee approved the most recent version of the bill on Thursday. This new bill would allow for a police presence at schools and senior centers that are also used as polling sites. It would also require schools to implement an Election Day security plan.
"I just definitely know that people on the election board were concerned about the late nights when election workers break," says Wirth. "They don't finish up until the votes are completely done and processed and it's always late in the night."
Though there is bipartisan support for this bill, voting and civil rights advocates say the bill discourages voters of color from going to the polls, particularly Black voters based on a recent study.
Advocates say this bill is misguided and doesn't address the issues driving this decision.
"If we want to address school shootings, there's ways to do that," says Henal Patel, of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. "There are gun control measures we need to recognize, and this bill will not do any of that."
The updated version has to pass the full Assembly and Senate before it goes to the governor.