After working out some backroom squabbling, the state Senate on Monday gave final approval to a sweeping overhaul of the state’s election laws intended to expand access to the ballot and boost voter participation. The “Democracy Act,” passed 24-16, includes more early voting options, online voter registration and automatic registration at the Motor Vehicle Commission, and it would require pre-election materials to be printed in more languages. The bill (A4613) would also clear up the state’s contradictory U.S. Senate succession laws and curtail the governor’s power in appointing temporary senators by requiring them to be from the same party as the person who vacated the seat.
“This is a bill that represents at least 10 years of work by members of the Senate, passed twice with the help of the senate president, and we are committed to open access and voting rights for all,” state Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex) said on the floor.
The state Assembly passed the bill Thursday, but it stalled in the upper house when Gill wanted her own bill to increase early voting — which had been incorporated into the Democracy Act — passed separately.