Voting is the most fundamental right, and yet the mechanics of registering to vote have not improved very much since the days when we had to crank down our car windows to pay a toll collector. We need to bring the mechanism of registering to vote into the 21st century. Fortunately, the first step in modernizing voting awaits Gov. Chris Christie’s signature. In the 2014 election, New Jersey ranked among the worst in the nation in voter turnout with only 30.4 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot. In late June, the N.J. Legislature passed a strong bill, the Democracy Act, which includes voting reforms that have successfully increased voter registration and turnout in other states.
The Democracy Act takes into account the schedules of modern working families by allowing people to vote in person within two weeks of Election Day, including on weekends. Under the bill, eligible citizens would be automatically registered to vote when getting a driver’s license or state ID. The bill would also allow qualified residents to register online and give registered voters more opportunity to ensure the accuracy of their registration and help ensure the accuracy of voting rolls.
The NAACP has fought for over a century for the right of all citizens to vote. We fought in the segregated North where political machines often robbed African Americans of the franchise. And we fought under Jim Crow in the South where disenfranchising African Americans was government policy. Much has changed since we passed the Voting Rights Act. The mechanics of voting and registering to vote must keep up with the times.