Today, the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee voted to advance three voting reform bills that will modernize New Jersey’s elections and reduce barriers to participation. Automatic voter registration 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. Legislation to expand access to in-person early voting and to establish online voter registration also passed out of the committee.

“New Jersey’s current election system is outdated and does not adequately serve the needs of our voters,” said Jesse Burns, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. “These secure and commonsense measures remove barriers to participation while ensuring the integrity of our democracy.”

The League of Women Voters of New Jersey was joined by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (Institute), as well as other voting rights advocates, in testifying in support of the legislation. 

“Our democracy is strongest when more people are able to have their voices heard and when the electorate is representative of the state’s population as a whole,” said Ryan Haygood, President and CEO of the Institute. “These reforms will help create a vibrant and inclusive democracy in New Jersey by increasing access to voter registration and expanding the time during which a voter can cast a ballot.”

Automatic voter registration has been shown to significantly increase the number of people who register to vote when interacting with a motor vehicles office. In Oregon—the first state to implement automatic voter registration—nearly 100,000 of the new registrants turned out to vote in 2016. By making it easier for a voter to update their information, automatic voter registration also helps improve the accuracy of the voter rolls. New Jersey would join ten other states and the District of Columbia if automatic voter registration is adopted.

New Jersey is one of only a handful of states that does not currently allow for robust in-person early voting opportunities or online voter registration. The bills passed today by the committee would provide for expanded early voting hours, including on evenings and weekends, at more locations as well as permit an eligible citizen to register to vote using a secure website. All three reforms have been passed by the legislature in some form only to be vetoed by former Governor Chris Christie.  

“These reforms have proven successful in other states and New Jersey is falling behind,” said Burns. “Voters are telling the League that the current system is failing them, and they shouldn’t be asked to wait any longer to ensure their voices are heard.”

The three bills approved by the Senate Committee today must still be passed by the full Senate and the Assembly before going to Governor Phil Murphy’s desk.

The League and the Institute are also advocating for other reforms to make our democracy more inclusive and accessible, including restoring voting rights to people with convictions and same day voter registration.

“These three reforms are necessary to helping position New Jersey as a national model of what an inclusive democracy should look like,” said Institute Associate Counsel Scott Novakowski. “We look forward to working with legislators in both houses as well as Governor Murphy to further build a robust democracy in New Jersey that includes all of our voices.”