The Democracy Act (A-4613) was introduced in June, led by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Majority Leader Lou Greenwald. The legislation deals primarily with voter registration, early voting, and limiting special elections.
While most, if not all of the bill's goals may be laudable in their own right, the showdown over the Democracy Act is just more proof of how susceptible the media has become to partisan rhetoric when it comes to voting rights. Even the New York Times fails to ask the question, "Is New Jersey's closed primary system serving the interests of every individual voter or is it serving the interests of the two major political parties?"
In New Jersey, the only voters who are "qualified" to vote in a primary election are registered Republicans and Democrats. And in those same primary elections, over 90 percent of races will be decided.
This year, only 5 percent of voters turned up to vote in the state's June 2 primary election. Should that come as much of a surprise when the state flat out bans more than 2.6 million of its voters from participating in the part of the election that pretty much decides who will win in November?
From the New York Times:
"Mr. Christie should put aside his cynical bombast and sign the measure. Right now, as he works the hustings, he should be supporting efforts to make elections fairer and more inviting, not standing in the way."
Where was the New York Times when earlier this week a coalition of nonpartisan organizations and New Jersey voters filed a petition with the Supreme Court to hear their case challenging the constitutionality of New Jersey's closed primaries?
Last month, N.J. Senate President Steve Sweeny explained the rationale behind the bill:
"You're getting to a point where the minority is going to decide the majority as far as population... One of the reasons why... is because we make it too hard for people to vote... We should be encouraging participation because the more people vote the more the government itself would look like the state rather than special interest groups."
If the strike zone of better representation in government was the broad side of a barn, the Democracy Act would have missed by a mile. But instead of pointing it out, the New York Times would rather cling to the Democrats' partisan talking points bait, hook, line, and sinker.
So when the New Jersey legislature asks itself how it can improve participation in what have become essentially vacant elections, why not start by giving all voters, regardless of political affiliation, equal and meaningful access to the state's election process?