Today, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a comprehensive election reform bill designed to boost registration rates, clean up the rolls, save money, and make voting more convenient.
Christie’s veto prevents New Jersey from becoming the third state in the country to enact automatic registration, a groundbreaking reform that puts the onus on the government to sign up eligible citizens at the DMV. Oregon passed this breakthrough law in March, followed by California in October. Both are expected to add hundreds of thousands of eligible voters to the rolls. Had Gov. Christie signed the bill, 16 percent of the nation’s population would have lived in states with automatic voter registration. New Jersey’s bill, the Democracy Act, also included provisions to create two weeks of in-person early voting and add online registration, among other changes.
“Automatic registration is good for the country, and good for New Jersey,” said Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. “The Democracy Act would have made our registration lists more accurate and up to date, and voting more flexible and convenient. We are extremely disappointed Governor Christie chose to veto a bill with these kinds of proven benefits. Instead of passing laws that make it harder for Americans to vote, lawmakers must work to modernize our voting system for the 21st century.”
“Governor Christie’s wrongheaded decision to veto the New Jersey Democracy Act places him on the wrong side of New Jersey voters and the wrong side of history,” said Analilia Mejia, executive director of New Jersey Working Families. “While Governor Christie may want to keep our voting practices stuck in the 1950s, he need not have the last word. Reforms like automatic voter registration, online voter registration, and early voting are essential to ensuring broad participation of New Jersey’s electorate. New Jersey legislators should give the voters the power to strengthen their own voting rights by putting provisions of the Democracy Act on the ballot in 2016.”
Despite the governor’s veto, legislators and advocates remain committed to bringing these reforms — along with other voter-friendly policies like restoration of voting rights to people with past criminal convictions — to New Jersey.
The veto also comes as America faces a fever pitch battle over the right to vote. Since the 2010 election, 21 states have new voting restrictions in place — and in 15 states, next year will be the first time these rules are in effect for a presidential election, which is marked by high turnout. Since the 2012 election, however, 23 states plus the District of Columbia have passed new laws to improve voting. This total does not include New Jersey, where Gov. Christie has vetoed two voting reform bills since 2013.
Read more about automatic, permanent voter registration.