Advocates cheered the Senate and Assembly passage of automatic voter registration (AVR), which allows eligible voters to be automatically registered to vote or to have their voting information updated when interacting with the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) unless they decline registration. The bill now goes to Governor Phil Murphy’s desk.
“Automatic voter registration is an important first step in creating a more inclusive and representative electorate,” said Ryan Haygood, President and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (Institute).  “Our democracy is strongest when more people are able to have their voices heard.”

The Brennan Center for Justice, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey joined the Institute in applauding the legislature’s support of this common-sense reform.

“This is a big deal for New Jersey, and a great move by the state legislature,” said Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice and head of its voting rights and elections project. “Automatic voter registration is more efficient and accurate, and helps create an inclusive democracy where more eligible voters are able to have their voice heard on Election Day. It’s a smart, common-sense reform, and we’re excited to see more New Jerseyans get engaged in democracy because of the change.”

Under the AVR bill passed by the Legislature, when eligible voters interact with the MVC, the information they provide will be safely and accurately used to add their names to the voter registration rolls or update their registration unless they opt out. The bill also allows additional state government agencies to implement AVR in the future, so long as that agency is capable of accurately gathering and transferring the same information about eligible voters as the MVC currently collects.

“New Jersey took a huge leap forward today and we are hopeful that our state will emerge as a nationwide leader in ensuring accessibility to the ballot,” said Jesse Burns, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. “Automatic voter registration is smart, tested technology that has proven to be secure, boost registration, clean up our rolls, and save money.”

Automatic voter registration has been shown to significantly increase the number of people who register to vote when interacting with a motor vehicles office, while also making the voter rolls more accurate and up-to-date and saving money. In Oregon—the first state to implement automatic voter registration—nearly 100,000 of the new registrants turned out to vote in 2016. Importantly, Oregon’s voter rolls are now also more reflective of the entire state population. In passing AVR, New Jersey has joined a diverse and bipartisan group of eleven other states and the District of Columbia that have passed AVR legislation.

“At a time when our voting rights have been subject to a nationwide assault, our Legislature has made New Jersey a leader by broadening access to the ballot box,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha. “We’re hopeful that this step is just the first of many to expand New Jerseyans’ participation in the democratic process. We look forward to working with the Legislature to end disenfranchisement based on convictions, enable early voting, and secure the power of individuals to assert their voice in the same spirit of today’s important legislative action.”

“We are pleased to see the Legislature support this common-sense reform that will help more people register to vote,” added Institute Associate Counsel Scott Novakowski. “New Jersey has an opportunity to serve as a model of an inclusive and robust democracy. We must seize this moment by continuing to dismantle barriers to voting.”