Chris Christie vetoes automatic voter registration for no good reason

Literally as I was writing this post explaining why automatic voter registration does not open the door for voter fraud, Chris Christie vetoed automatic registration in New Jersey, citing an increased chance of voter fraud.

From ThinkProgress:

After sitting on the “Democracy Act” for almost five months, the governor and Republican presidential candidate vetoed his third voting rights-related bill in three years, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Christie has previously said that he does not support making it easier for residents of his state to vote.

“In New Jersey, we have early voting that are available to people,” he said in June. “I don’t want to expand it and increase the opportunities for fraud.”

Automatic voter registration would have added 1.6 million people to the state’s voter rolls, and it would have done so in the simplest, most efficient way possible: by simply changing the state’s existing “motor voter” law compliance from opt-in to opt-out. State agencies are already required to offer voter registration opportunities for every citizen they interact with, and they already match the voter registration forms they receive with citizenship databases. In other words, there is absolutely no basis for Christie’s claim that automatic voter registration would increase opportunities for fraud.

What’s more, New Jersey lags behind most other states when it comes to voter registration and turnout. As ThinkProgress continued:

New Jersey currently ranks 39th in the country in both percentage of eligible voters who are registered and percentage of voters who actually cast a ballot, according to [New Jersey Working Families]. The state does not allow in-person early voting, but requires citizens who want to cast an absentee ballot early to apply for one at an election official’s office. New Jersey also does not permit online voter registration, something that is allowed in 33 other states.

Chris Christie, via Wikimedia Commons

Chris Christie, via Wikimedia Commons

Proponents of the bill have already said that they will attempt to pass automatic voter registration by statewide referendum next year, the same way that citizens went over Christie’s head to raise New Jersey’s minimum wage in 2013.

What’s especially frustrating about this is the fact that Christie may have gone the other way on this bill if he wasn’t still hanging on to his Quixotic presidential ambitions. There’s a Republican primary debate tomorrow evening; if Christie were out of the race by now, and didn’t have to worry about speaking to millions of Republicans who like the idea of making it harder to vote, that wouldn’t matter. But since he’s in the race, he’d have taken a hit with Republican voters by signing the Democracy Act — it may have even been enough to finally get a voting rights question at a Republican debate!

A majority of Republicans used to support automatic voter registration, but that support cratered as it became more heavily associated with Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. Had Chris Christie been acting like a governor, this wouldn’t have mattered. But he’s acting like a candidate, which means that New Jersey will have to wait to expand ballot access for at least another year.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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