“Tearing Down Barriers to Voting”

“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”   Abraham Lincoln

As Phil Murphy said during his campaign, “Across the nation, Republicans have systematically tried to disenfranchise voters – an effort Governor Christie has supported here in New Jersey in an effort to cater to national right-wing special interests.” Murphy and our Legislature are working to remedy that problem.

This week’s Monmouth poll indicated that Murphy’s job approval rating is higher than that of his two predecessors at this time, and his disapproval rating is lower. “Perhaps one reason why Murphy’s overall job rating is so positive,” said poll director Patrick Murray  “is because fewer New Jerseyans are paying attention to this new governor than in the past.”  He added, “It’s worth noting that turnout in last year’s election was a record low and most voters couldn’t say whether Murphy’s views were in line with the state.“

In the two elections of 2014 and 2016, according to the US Census bureau, NJ, in comparison with other states, had fewer registered voters as a per cent of eligible voters. It also had fewer people who voted, in comparison with others states. Data from the NJ Division of elections during the 2017 gubernatorial election indicates there were 5,703,654 people registered of which 2,198,362 voted – equal to a very low 39% turnout.

A more traditional way of registering

Yesterday, amidst a flurry of votes, the Legislature passed a smart reform bill (S481 and A2014) that should increase registration substantially. Under current law, each applicant for a driver’s license or renewal of an existing license is offered an opportunity to simultaneously register to vote. This new bill requires the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission to automatically register to vote a person who is eligible to vote, or to automatically update a person’s voter registration. In addition, “Any other State agency that already collects documents that would provide proof of eligibility may implement a procedure for automatic voter registration.” It was passed by the Assembly (50-23-0)  and the Senate (24-13) despite strenuous dissent from Republicans. There’s nothing wrong with the traditional ways of registering (left) but things are changing.

During his campaign, Murphy urged this automatic voter registration. He also supported:

  • On-line voter registration
  • Same-day voter registration
  • Allowing early voting at selected precincts – easing the burden for working families
  • Allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primaries if they will be 18 by election day

Other bills in the Legislature: One would restore voting rights to NJ prisoners and people on parole or probation. Another would requires Secretary of State to establish secure Internet website for online voter registration and authorizes use of digitized signatures from New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission’s database.

Recent data shows an increase in registered voters particularly among Democrats. Registration data from  March 31 2017  to March 31, 2018 indicates that 76,267 more people registered as Democrats, whereas only 35,154 more registered as Republicans. The total increase in all registered people was less impressive – 58,626 –  because already registered individuals switched from Unaffiliated or Independent to Democrat or Republican.

It’s good for the candidates when more people leave the Unaffiliated group because the candidates can then focus their efforts on more identifiable individuals in their particular party.  However, we still need to register more eligible voters and get them to the polling stations. The above bill and further reforms mentioned above are an excellent start. We want fewer people “just sitting on their blisters.”

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