Gov. Murphy: Same-day voter registration protects the sacred right to vote I Opinion

Published: Apr. 03, 2022

By Philip D. Murphy, Sandra Cunningham and Raj Mukherji

The governor and members of his legislature say that same-day voter registration would increase voter turnout, especially those who recently moved, forgot to register or were accidentally purged from the rolls.

Voting is more than a civic responsibility — it is an act of confidence in our democracy and among our most sacred rights and responsibilities. As elected officials, protecting that right is our duty — and holding the core democratic value of expanding voter access to the ballot box should be a prerequisite for the job.

But each Election Day, without fail, countless otherwise legally eligible voters are turned away despite our ability to verify their identity and complete their registration on the spot. Some are young adults, having just turned 18, and beginning their college studies and next phase of life in a completely new location. Some are older citizens wanting to exercise their right to vote for the first time. Others are new residents in their community who want to play a role in the future of the place they now call home.

For 20 states and Washington D.C., this obstacle has been overcome by allowing same-day voter registration, in essence turning polling places into a one-stop-shop for registration and voting.

It is time New Jersey did the same – a perspective shared by both Democrats and Republicans, as evidenced by the same-day voter registration bill’s bipartisan sponsors, including Senator Jon Bramnick.

For many New Jerseyans, even those who are actively engaged and motivated to vote, the issue of voter registration is not something that often crosses their minds. Between family and work responsibilities, figuring out how to navigate the registration process can be challenging – especially for our newest voters who are less likely to have driver’s licenses than their parents’ generation.

Our laws prohibit those who previously lived and registered in a different county from casting a ballot on Election Day in their new county, despite that they might be otherwise legally qualified to vote in this state. Same-day registration would recognize the legitimacy of those votes and mitigate the need for courts to intervene in a host of other similar circumstances, including missing or incomplete voter registrations.

When more citizens cast their votes in an election, it means results that better reflect the values and goals of a community. As representatives, it allows us to be better stewards of the voices of our constituents. It means our communities are active participants in the immediate and long-term future of their townships, counties and state.

And it means our democracy only grows stronger.

Thanks to advances in technology, countless bureaucratic tasks that once took days and weeks to complete can now be handled in a matter of moments. Over the past 30 years, everything from the way we access our money to the way we communicate has evolved to be better, faster and easier.

There is no reason why New Jerseyans who are eligible to vote, who want to make their voices heard, and who show up on Election Day to fulfill their civic duty should be turned away – not because they moved and forgot to update their address on file, not because they were mistakenly removed from the rolls and not because they did not complete in advance the administrative task of registering.

At one time in this country, Americans were prevented from voting because of their race or gender, their lack of property ownership, their level of literacy, the disenfranchisement of their grandfathers, or their ability to pay a poll tax, among other roadblocks.

We have learned from history that these tests are not just arbitrary — they are unjust, unconstitutional and un-American.

Still, people of color remain registered to vote at lower rates and purged from voter rolls at higher rates than white voters. In addition, young people, who have the least experience navigating the voter registration process, move more frequently than other groups and cite not being registered as their top reason for not voting.

In states where same-day voter registration has been implemented, voter turnout increased anywhere from 5% overall, with as much as a 10-percentage point increase among 18-24 year-olds and a 2% to 17% increase among Black and Latino voters.

In a state as diverse as New Jersey, there can be no doubt that same-day voter registration will make a real difference in strengthening access to the ballot and increasing voter turnout.

Whether we are Republicans or Democrats, our most important role as public officials is to protect the sacred right to vote — and that means making an effort to understand why the status quo just isn’t cutting it for younger voters, new residents or communities of color, and then doing something about it.

If that isn’t enough of a case for same-day voter registration, we don’t know what is.

This essay was also signed by state Senator Nellie Pou, who represents the 35th Legislative District, which includes parts of Bergen and Passaic counties.

Philip D. Murphy is the governor of New Jersey.

State Senator Sandra Cunningham represents the 31st Legislative District, which includes the Hudson County municipalities of Bayonne and Jersey City.

Assemblyman Raj Mukherji represents the 33rd Legislative District, which includes the Hudson County municipalities of Hoboken, Union City, Weehawken, as well as portions of Jersey City.

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-04-04 02:50:46 -0700