On November 9, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed "The Democracy Act," a law that would expand early voting, establish online voter registration, implement election day registration and provisional voting, and automatically register citizens to vote that apply for a driver’s license.
The Democracy Act (A-4613) was introduced in June, led by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D) and Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D). The proponents of the bill, including the League of Women Voters argue that the bill would help to increase voter turnout, a lingering issue in the Garden State.
Currently, New Jersey ranks in the bottom 10 in voter participation.
Senate President Steve Sweeny stated:
“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.”
Support for the bill comes not only from Democrats, but from Republicans and voters not affiliated with either major party. According to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll, a majority of respondents favored most of the key provisions of the bill.
Here is the breakdown:
- 67 percent support increasing early in-person voting, including 65 percent of Republican respondents and 64 percent of independents.
- Two-thirds are in favor of automatic registration when applying for a driver's license, including 59 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of independents.
- 59 percent support Election Day voter registration and provisional voting, including half of Republicans and half of independents.
The veto has drawn wide criticism from a variety of groups. According to PolitikerNJ, vice president of the Latino Action Network, Christian Estevez, stated: “These are common sense voting reforms that have been proven to increase voter registration and voter participation in states that have implemented them."
Not only did the bill have wide support among politicians, over 35 organizations signed an open letter to Christie urging him to sign the bill, and thousands signed an ACLU petition also calling on the governor to sign the bill.
Christie's argument against the legislation is that it would increase the risk of fraud -- a common concern among opponents of some of the provisions of the bill, like automatic voter registration. To date, however, there is no recorded evidence that such fraud exists in states that have adopted similar reform.