Automatic Voter Registration in New Jersey

New Jersey’s legislature became the second state to pass a bill adopting automatic voter registration, but Governor Chris Christie vetoed the legislation.

November 12, 2015

On November 9, Governor Chris Christie vetoed the Democracy Act, pro-voter legislation that would have adopted automatic registration and other pro-voter reforms like online registration and early voting. Automatic registration is a modern way of registering voters that is gaining momentum across the country. Automatic registration has the potential to boost registration rates, clean up the rolls, save money, and make voting more convenient.

Automatic registration makes two transformative changes to voter registration. Eligible citizens who interact with government agencies are registered to vote unless they decline, and agencies transfer voter-registration information electronically to election officials. These two changes would create a seamless process that will be more convenient and less error-prone for voters, agency staff, and election officials.

The New Jersey legislation, called the Democracy Act, was part of a trend of legislatures passing automatic registration. In March 2015, Oregon passed a breakthrough law to automatically register eligible citizens who have driver’s licenses (and do not ask to remain unregistered). California's legislature passed a bill authorizing automatic registration in September that Governor Jerry Brown signed into law in October. Moreover, Hillary Clinton has called for automatic registration, as has Senator Bernie Sanders, who also introduced automatic registration legislation in Congress.

The Brennan Center and others encouraged Gov. Chris Christie to sign the Democracy Act into law and bring automatic registration to New Jersey, and press coverage both inside and outside New Jersey have urged the same. Voter advocates have committed to pressing for automatic registration in New Jersey.