Newark — Citing New Jersey’s falling ranking in voter turnout and the experiences of other states in making voting more accessible and convenient for residents, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy said New Jersey should be a national leader in promoting commonsense reforms, including automatic voter registration and early voting, that make it easier for residents to cast their ballots.
In last week’s Presidential election, New Jersey ranked 29th nationwide in turnout (59.2% of all residents eligible to vote), behind neighboring states Delaware and Pennsylvania, as well as Connecticut, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Virginia, according to statistics compiled by United States Election Project at the University of Florida.
Even in 2012, when national voter turnout was significantly higher, New Jersey only ranked 19th nationwide.
“We cannot settle for being a laggard in national politics, just as we cannot settle for being an economic laggard. A state as important as ours must be a leader,” said Murphy. “One of the most precious gifts in a democracy is the ability of the people to select their leaders, and we must ensure that process is convenient and accessible to all. Governor Christie vetoed efforts to make registering and voting simpler. I will make improving our voting systems a priority.”
Murphy would have New Jersey join the 21 other states which allow residents to vote early at the polls prior to election day — easing the burden for working families who may not be able to get to the polls on a Tuesday. He noted that while county clerks allow voters to cast “in-person mail-in” ballots, the process should be streamlined to eliminate the requirement for filing a separate ballot application, and allow residents to cast their votes by machine.
“Voting in person before Election Day shouldn’t be any different than voting in person on Election Day,” said Murphy. “Our system should allow those who wish to vote early to do so in the same manner and on the same machines as their neighbors.”
Murphy cited news accounts of long lines in Hudson County which required elections officials to dispatch 50 additional machines to polling places — a situation he said could be mitigated though a comprehensive early voting program.
To ease the ability of voters to register, Murphy would make New Jersey the sixth state to provide for automatic voter registration through the Motor Vehicle Commission, make New Jersey the 39th state to move toward allowing on-line voter registration, and allow for Election Day registration of new voters at the polls. Currently, voters must send a registration form to their county clerk within 21 days of an election to qualify.
Finally, Murphy would enact legislation allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections if they will turn 18 by day of the General Election; 24 other states currently allow for these teens to vote in primary elections.
“These are commonsense measures that will modernize our voting laws and bring new interest into the political process, and as new technologies and ideas come out that can help us meet these goals we should not hesitate to consider them,” said Murphy. “The more we can do to give more residents access to the ballot, so more voters can have a say in the future of our state and communities, the better.”