New Jersey Democrats spurn Christie, push slate of voting rights expansions

When Hillary Clinton called for a massive voting rights expansion recently, calling for an end to discriminatory voting restrictions, along with nationwide early voting and automatic voter registration, Chris Christie told her that she didn’t know what she was talking about.

Now, he’ll have to say the same thing to his own legislature.

New Jersey Democrats are pushing a slate of bills entailing many of the voting rights expansions that Clinton called for, along with other voting rights expansions proposed in states around the country and in Congress. As The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Monday:

Chris Christie, via L.E.MORMILE / Shutterstock

Chris Christie, via L.E.MORMILE / Shutterstock

The proposed overhaul, announced Monday by Democratic leaders in the Senate and Assembly, would allow for early in-person voting for two weeks, through the Sunday before the Tuesday election – similar to a measure Gov. Christie previously vetoed.

To increase the ranks of registered voters, lawmakers propose measures that include same-day and online registration, and automatic registration for people receiving driver’s licenses or state identification cards from the Motor Vehicle Commission unless they opt out.

27 states, along with the District of Columbia, have online voter registration. Oregon recently passed automatic voter registration via the DMV, and Illinois, Vermont and California are moving similar bills through their legislatures as far as Republicans will allow them to go. Pennsylvania Democrats have also proposed same-day voter registration, which is practiced in eleven other states. These ideas aren’t new, and they aren’t crazy.

In fact, the crazy thing would be to not make changes. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker recently called New Jersey’s voter registration system an “absurdity,” arguing (correctly) that it is ridiculous for the state to not have an option for voters to register online. A Pew Charitable Trust report published in May found that online voter registration costs an average of $240,000 to implement on the front end while saving between $0.50 and $2.34 per voter registered. In other words, it doesn’t take much time at all for the system to pay for itself and then some.

That online voter registration saves the state money is one of the reasons why Oklahoma — which doesn’t make a habit of expanding voting rights — is set to implement online voter registration by November 1st.

New Jersey does not have a voter ID requirement a la Texas or Wisconsin, so there’s nothing to roll back on that front. And as I’ve noted before, there aren’t any good arguments against the expansions proposed by the legislature, despite Christie’s GOP primary-induced need to proclaim that the only reason you’d want to make it easier to vote is to “commit greater acts of voter fraud around the country.” So these bills will likely fail, via Christie’s veto pen, for no good reason other than his fantasy that he can salvage his presidential bid, or at least his ego, by upping his conservative cred and taking a bold stand against voting.

If that is the case, the changes may become law anyway. In the event that Christie vetoes the bills, as he did with prior legislation that would have expanded early voting in the state, the bill’s sponsors did not rule out putting the proposed changes on the ballot in November as referenda.

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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6 Responses to “New Jersey Democrats spurn Christie, push slate of voting rights expansions”

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  2. gratuitous says:

    This will be an interesting exercise, if nothing else. The governor really likes to throw his weight around, and impose his will on state politics. He is reeling from the bridge-closing scandal, because he has had to step back and pretend that the people on his staff actually think and act for themselves, independent of him, and he’s really blameless, and it was those staff people – whom he barely knows! – who perpetrated all that chicanery in Ft. Lee.

    Now, he’s come out foursquare against making it easier for citizens in New Jersey to register and vote, proclaiming loudly that people who advocate for that don’t know what they’re talking about. The Democrats in the legislature have zeroed in on this issue, and appear to be ready to fire a shot across the governor’s bow. Christie has vetoed this legislation in the past, and in ordinary times, he’d just veto it again. These times are not so ordinary though, and Christie’s ambition might get cross-wise with public opinion. Bluster and bombast might not be the way to go, but Christie can’t afford to look weak right now. If the New Jersey Democrats really push their legislation, it could put Christie in a very bad position.

  3. Thom Allen says:

    Too bad for Christie, he’s now just excess baggage in the clown car. But I’d bet he’s make a great VP a la Darth Cheney. Bullying whomever had the Presidency. Ordering him around, thinking for him, etc.

  4. ComradeRutherford says:

    The ONLY reason to oppose these voting reforms is because you are a Republican and you know this means you’ll lose more elections.

  5. 2karmanot says:

    Snork, snork, I just ate me some civil rights!

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