Automatic Voter Registration in New Jersey

On April 12th, the New Jersey state legislature approved a bill that establishes automatic voter registration. The bill now heads to Governor Phil Murphy's desk, and with his signature New Jersey would become the 12th state — along with Washington, D.C. — to approve the reform.

April 12, 2018

On April 12th, both chambers of the New Jersey State Legislature passed a bill that establishes automatic voter registration, a process that would streamline the state’s voter registration procedures and energize the state’s elections. The legislation now moves to Governor Phil Murphy's desk, and with his signature, New Jersey would become the 12th state—along with Washington, D.C.—to approve automatic voter registration.

The premise is simple: when eligible voters visit state agencies like the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC), the information they provide is safely and accurately used to add their names to the voter registration rolls (unless they opt out; no one is required to register).

The Brennan Center, New Jersey League of Women Voters, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, and others have worked for years in collaboration with state lawmakers and the governor to make automatic registration in New Jersey a reality. Here are a few important facts about automatic voter registration, or AVR:

  • Last week, the bill passed through appropriations committees of both chambers of the New Jersey legislature. AVR has netted bipartisan support in states like Illinois, Vermont, West Virginia, and Alaska. Leaders and voters from across the political spectrum have endorsed AVR.
  • New Jersey’s bill was updated last week to make AVR even more effective. Right now, the MVC already collects the appropriate, verifiable information needed to add someone to the registration rolls. The updated bill allows additional state government agencies to join the effort in the future, so long as that agency is capable of accurately gathering the same information about eligible voters. That gives New Jerseyans maximum flexibility to keep their registration up-to-date.
  • Implementing AVR at MVC offices is incredibly cost-effective. All it requires is a basic change to the state’s touch screen systems. Instead of opting in to register, New Jerseyans will have the option to opt out. That’s it. No new forms, no additional bureaucracy. Just a simple change that could transform the way New Jersey conducts its elections.
  • AVR reduces the potential for inaccuracies in voter registration databases. One in four voters nationwide doesn’t realize that when you change your address at the post office, that information does not update your voter registration. Americans are increasingly mobile, even within a single state, and AVR lets our voter registration system catch up. That means less confusion for voters and at the polling place.
  • In states that have implemented AVR, participation and engagement have only gone up. In Oregon, the first state to pass AVR, voter rolls are now more reflective of the entire state population: The system has helped low-income communities and rural voters engage more effectively with our politics. At a time of great disenfranchisement, that’s good for voters and good for democracy.

For more information about why AVR is a win-win for New Jersey and the country, visit www.brennancenter.org/automatic-voter-registration. For members of the press, email Rebecca Autrey at rebecca.autrey@nyu.edu or Stephen Fee at stephen.fee@nyu.edu.