NJ Legislators: Put the Democracy Act on the 2016 ballot!

Last month, Chris Christie vetoed a groundbreaking bill that would have strengthened our voting rights and made it easier for eligible voters to vote and register to vote. Thanks to advocacy from you and other Working Families activists, legislators pledged to go around him and put voting rights on the ballot next year. But they have just three days left to act.

The provisions of the New Jersey Democracy Act would register hundreds of thousands of new eligible residents to vote and bring our voting laws into the 21st Century by:

  • Automatically registering qualified residents to vote when they visit their local MVC, similar to groundbreaking laws recently passed in California and Oregon.
  • Allowing people to register to vote or correct voting information online.
  • Pre-registration of young voters, who may then vote in next election for which they become eligible.
  • Making voting more convenient for working families by expanding early in-person voting.
  • Allowing voters who have applied for a ballot but not yet returned it would be able to vote at the polls without excuse on Election Day and at no cost to the voter.
  • Guaranteeing access to the ballot box for people with disabilities.
  • Improving access for military and overseas voters.
  • Printing ballots in languages that reflect our diverse communities.
  • Prohibiting harassment of voters at the polls.
  • Strengthening protections against voter fraud.

Time is running out, so NJ Working Families is joining partners and allies to send the letter below to legislators urging them to take action and put the Democracy Act on the 2016 ballot. If you read the letter and agree, click here to take action yourself.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Dear Members of the New Jersey Senate and Assembly,
We the undersigned urge you to modernize voting practices and expand voting rights in New Jersey by taking action before the end of this legislative session to place provisions contained in the recently vetoed  “New Jersey Democracy Act,” (S50/A4613)” on the ballot in November 2016.
This June, our state was on the verge of modernizing New Jersey’s outdated voting laws. Your groundbreaking efforts to reverse a troubling statewide trend in voter participation by enacting common sense policies such as automatic voter registration, expanded early voting, and the protection of voters against fraud and harassment received national recognition.
New Jersey is experiencing an alarming trend in voter disengagement. Our state currently ranks a disappointing 39th in the nation in both percentage of eligible voters registered and of registered voters who actually turn out to vote. Just days before Governor Christie vetoed the New Jersey Democracy Act, our state experienced its lowest turnout election in nearly 100 years. Just 22% of the electorate cast a ballot in the November elections. And in 2014, our state ranked among the 10 lowest-performing states for voter participation. Worst of all, a staggering 1.6 million aren’t even registered to vote.
The evidence is overwhelming. Narrow windows for participation, outdated voting practices and New Jersey’s failure to take advantage of existing technology creates unnecessary hurdles for far too many New Jerseyans and limits full participation in our democracy for millions of eligible voters.
Other states across this nation, recognizing poor participation at the ballot box undermines trust in government, have modernized voting procedures and protected the right to vote have seen increased participation as a result. The measures contained in the New Jersey Democracy Act would create a system of automatic voter registration modeled after the programs recently enacted in Oregon and California. Qualified residents who apply for or renew licenses at their local DMV would be automatically registered unless they chose to opt-out. The program could sign up hundreds of thousands of new voters and prevent qualified residents from being denied the right to vote due to voter registration errors.
Further, the legislature can modernize voter registration by allowing people to register to vote and correct their voting information online. This common sense measure offers convenience for voters, helps clean up our state’s voter rolls, and saves election officials time and money while protecting the franchise of all eligible New Jersey voters.
The Democracy Act also included a number of measures that can make voting more convenient for working families. By expanding early voting, we can make sure that going to work, caring for a sick child, or getting stuck in a traffic jam is no barrier to our franchise. By expanding access for military and overseas voters, we can make sure that the people protecting our democracy have a full say in it. And by printing ballots in languages that reflect our communities, we can make voting accessible to everyone in our diverse state.
Finally, putting expanding voting rights on the ballot presents an incredible opportunity to ensure a fuller more participatory democracy by eliminating the disenfranchisement of certain otherwise eligible voters, particularly those who were never even removed from society and are on probation for nonviolent offenses. The disenfranchisement of voters on probation is widely seen as a systemic way in which communities of color are disempowered.
Our governor’s veto should not be the final word on whether New Jersey leads in a nationwide movement to expand democracy through common sense measures and your actions. We urge you to act before the close of this legislative session and give New Jersey voters an unprecedented chance to strengthen voting rights for themselves and their neighbors 2016.
American Civil Liberties Union – NJ
Committee of Interns and Residents, SEIU
Communication Workers of America, District 1
Communication Workers of America, Local 1032
Communication Workers of America, Local 1037
Environment NJ
Food and Water Watch, NJ
La Casa De Don Pedro
Latino Action Network
League of Women Voters of New Jersey
Make the Road New Jersey
New Jersey Citizen Action
New Jersey College Democrats
New Jersey Communities United
New Jersey Working Families
New Jersey State Industrial Union Council
Progressive Democrats of America, NJ
Service Employees International Union, New Jersey State Council
Service Employees International Union, 32BJ
Service Employees International Union, 1199
Sierra Club, NJ
Union of Rutgers Administrators, AFT NJ