New Jersey Democrats spent several years developing a bill to overhaul voter registration, a measure that, when finished being written, was the length of a novella. But when it came time to act on it, Democrats who control the Legislature passed the bill within a week, without committee hearings. The final vote came on the day they broke for a summer recess that stretched into the second week of November. It was also the day before Governor Christie declared he was running for president. And those Democrats were so sure Christie would veto the bill that they scheduled a meeting to discuss possible ways around that rejection even before he put pen to paper
Barely 26 hours after Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill intended to overhaul New Jersey’s voting system and boost voter participation, Democratic state lawmakers from both chambers met in a rare joint caucus to chart a new course. The bill, called the Democracy Act, would make voter registration automatic upon applying for a driver’s license and expand early voting. Among other provisions, the bill (A4613) would resolve the state’s contradictory U.S. Senate succession rules and require pre-election materials be printed in more languages. Democrats pushing the bill have said it will increase access to the ballot and boost voter participation. Nationally, Democrats have sought to enfranchise more voters, while Republicans have expressed concern about fraud.
Republican Governor Chris Christie vetoed an overhaul of New Jersey’s voting procedures that Democrats and the League of Women Voters said would have increased turnout, calling it wasteful and politically motivated. The measure, dubbed the “The Democracy Act,” would have expanded early voting, created online registration and automatically enrolled people applying for a driver’s license unless they opted out. Christie, who vetoed a bill in 2013 that would have required polls to open two weeks before elections, has said the latest effort would have raised the risk of fraud. In a statement accompanying the veto, Christie said he remained doubtful the measure would increase turnout. He said it would “upend” the state’s current early-voting statutes allowing people to cast paper ballots prior to an election. The law would cost an additional $25 million per year, he said.
If Americans needed any further proof that voting itself has become a partisan battleground, look no further than proposals calling for automatic voter registration. California this month enacted a law that will automatically register people to vote when they get or renew a driver’s license or state identification card from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), following the example set by Oregon several months ago. Over time, this could bring most of the 6.6 million Californians who are eligible but not yet registered onto the voting rolls. Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state and sponsor of the measure, calls it potentially the largest voter registration drive in U.S. history. Other states could soon follow. Legislators have introduced automatic voter registration bills in 16 additional states, including Hawaii, Illinois and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia. New Jersey lawmakers approved a package that includes automatic voter registration in June. Republican Gov. Chris Christie hasn’t acted on it, but he’s made his opposition clear.
In a bold move last weekend, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that automatically registers Californians to vote when they obtain or renew their driver’s licenses or state-issued identification cards. California now joins Oregon in moving toward a more robust and inclusive electoral process by reaching out to voters through their motor vehicle departments. Will New Jersey be next? Regrettably, that’s doubtful, even as a bill to reform statewide voting procedures languishes on Gov. Chris Christie’s desk. At the end of June, the state Senate passed the New Jersey Democracy Act, a package of measures designed to broaden citizen participation through expanded early-voting opportunities, online voter registration and automatic voter registration at Motor Vehicle Commission offices.
State Sen. Nia Gill wants Gov. Chris Christie to take some time away from trying to gain voters on the presidential campaign trail to sign legislation impacting voters in his home state. The Montclair resident, who also represents her hometown as well as Clifton, East Orange, and Orange in the 34th District, was one of the primary sponsors of the “Democracy Act,” also known as S-50 and A-4613, which was approved by both the state Senate and Assembly in June. The bill would extend elections from one day to 15 days, allow for online voter registration, set up automatic voter registration through the state Motor Vehicle Commission, establish pre-registration for 17-year-olds, and allow non-English speakers to able to vote and register to vote in their native language.
New Jersey Democrats, anticipating a veto from Gov. Christie, are considering asking voters to amend the constitution to bring sweeping changes to the state’s voting laws. In doing so, they’re betting on a reliable but controversial strategy to advance policy initiatives that would otherwise stall under the Republican governor and presidential candidate. Democrats, who control both chambers in Trenton, have turned to the ballot box to skirt Christie on such measures as raising the minimum wage and dedicating funding for open space. “You would prefer to do it legislatively. It’s just that when left no options, you have to fight for the people,” Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) said in an interview Thursday. “If the administration is going to ignore the will of the people he represents for political, ideological reasons, well, look, we’re going to go to the people.”
A coalition of labor unions, women and minority groups, and civil rights organizations are urging Gov. Chris Christie to a sign what they call a groundbreaking piece of legislation sitting on his desk. The Democratic-controlled state Legislature sent the “Democracy Act,” a sweeping overhaul of New Jersey’s voting laws, to the Republican governor last month — though Democratic leaders aren’t confident he’ll approve it. But the coalition of 35 groups sent a letter to Christie this week stressing that the measure would make it easier for more New Jersey residents to cast ballots and would bring the state’s “voting practices into the 21st century.”
Editorials: Democracy Act provides first wave in restructuring of New Jersey voting laws | Richard T. Smith/Star Ledger
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.
New Jersey voters might have to wait a little longer for updated election laws if Gov. Chris Christie’s statements on a reform bill translate into a veto. Christie has spoken critically of the reform package, cast by Democrats as a major overhaul of the state’s 20th-century election system. The Democrat-led statehouse sent Christie the bill just as he formally begins his run for the Republican presidential nomination and as a debate simmers between the political parties over reforming state election laws. Republican lawmakers across the country are aiming to crack down on fraud and impose identification requirements and Democrats are seeking to automate registration and expand election rolls. For Christie, talking tough on the issue might give him an opportunity to demonstrate his conservative credentials, experts say, as the New Jersey Legislation contrasts with what Republican legislators in some states — like neighboring Pennsylvania — have pursued. Pennsylvania’s GOP-led Legislature passed legislation requiring photo identification at the polls, but it was struck down by a court.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) appears likely to veto a package of election reforms aimed at improving the state’s sparse voter turnout that was passed out of the Democrat-controlled legislature. The Democracy Act was passed out of the state Senate on June 29 and sent to Christie’s desk. The bill would introduce online voter registration, establish in-person early voting, require that election materials be available in more languages, allow pre-registration for 17-year-olds and enact automatic voter registration when voters apply for driver’s licenses. It would also require the governor to appoint temporary U.S. senators from the same party as outgoing senators and prevent the governor from scheduling special elections on a different date from the November election, as Christie did for U.S. Sen. Cory Booker’s (D) special election. Christie has already expressed his opposition to the automatic registration provision. The measure would echo the first-in-the-nation automatic registration bill Oregon passed earlier this year. While Oregon recorded one of the nation’s highest voter turnout rates in November, New Jersey had one of the lowest. (New Jersey also ranks 39th among states in the percentage of its eligible voters who are registered.)
As he roams far from New Jersey hugging voters in his quest for the White House, Gov. Chris Christie has a golden opportunity to demonstrate his faith in the people — yes, the people — by signing a groundbreaking voter registration bill passed last month by the state Legislature. It would make New Jersey a national leader by establishing automatic voter enrollment at the state Motor Vehicle Commission, encouraging early voting opportunities and expanding multilanguage election materials. The measure has everything to recommend it as a boon for democracy.
New Jersey: Democrats pushing major changes to voting laws, an issue riling Christie & Clinton | NJ.com
Democratic legislative leaders plan to introduce and fast-track legislation that would make sweeping changes to New Jersey voting laws in an attempt to bring more voters to the polls in a state where turnout and registration rates are in decline, NJ Advance Media has learned. The “Democracy Act” will include about a dozen measures to expand voter access, according to representatives of left-leaning groups that are backing the plan. It will be introduced just a month after Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sharply criticized Republicans for attempting to squelch voter participation, prompting a sharp rebuke from Gov. Chris Christie, a likely GOP White House contender.
During this year’s State of the State Address, Governor Chris Christie stated that whether or not he runs for President, he will remain governor and be back to give next year’s speech. However, let’s say, hypothetically, that the Governor decides to step down early. It’s happened before, most recently with former Governors Whitman and McGreevey. It could happen to future governors. If a gubernatorial vacancy occurs now, the Lieutenant Governor would assume the Office of Governor. But only under certain circumstances would the Lieutenant Governor serve the duration of the gubernatorial term. Unlike a vacancy in the office of the President, when the Vice President takes over for the remainder of the term, the Lieutenant Governor completes the term only when a little over a year is left on the term. In every other circumstance, a special election must be held.
New Jersey’s Senate has passed a bill requiring each county to open at least three polling places for voters to cast their ballots early days before an election. The measure would expand access and ensure the integrity of the voting system, sponsor Sen. Nia Gill said Monday. “We will avoid the issues that we faced in Sandy of invalid votes, of people voting by fax machine,” said Gill, D-Essex. Republicans voted against the legislation because it’s unnecessary, said Sen. Joe Pennacchio. “We already have early voting. We have absentee voting, and anybody can walk into a county clerk’s office 45 days before the election and actually cast their vote,” he said.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court upheld a move by Texas lawmakers to implement voter identification checks at polls during the midterm elections this November. “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a six-page dissent saying the court’s action ‘risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters,’” reports Adam Liptak for The New York Times. “The law, enacted in 2011, requires voters seeking to cast their ballots at the polls to present photo identification like a Texas driver’s or gun license, a military ID or a passport,” he explains. “Those requirements, Justice Ginsburg wrote, ‘may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5 percent of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification.’” At the heart of the voter-ID debate is the specter of voter fraud. Right-leaning pundits have expended hours upon hours of airtime persuading viewers of its widespread existence and insidious growth. “Voter fraud will occur” during the 2014 midterm elections, claims Hans von Spakovsky, writing for The Wall Street Journal. “Many states run a rickety election process, lacking rules to deter people who are looking to take advantage of the system’s porous security. And too many groups and individuals — including the N.A.A.C.P., the American Civil Liberties Union and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder — are doing everything they can to prevent states from improving the integrity of the election process.” “Democrats want everyone to vote: old, young, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, citizen, non-citizen,” Mona Charen writes at National Review. “Voter-ID laws, passed by 30 states so far, are efforts by legislatures to ensure the integrity of votes. Being asked to show a photo ID can diminish several kinds of fraud, including impersonation, duplicate registrations in different jurisdictions, and voting by ineligible people including felons and non-citizens,” she says.
New Jersey: Christie says GOP gubernatorial candidates need to win so they control ‘voting mechanisms’ | NorthJersey.com
Governor Christie pushed further into the contentious debate over voting rights than ever before, saying Tuesday that Republicans need to win gubernatorial races this year so that they’re the ones controlling “voting mechanisms” going into the next presidential election. Republican governors are facing intense fights in the courts over laws they pushed that require specific identification in order to vote and that reduce early voting opportunities. Critics say those laws sharply curtail the numbers of poor and minority voters, who would likely vote for Democrats. Christie — who vetoed a bill to extend early voting in New Jersey — is campaigning for many of those governors now as he considers a run for president in 2016.
New Jersey: Emergency voting measures during Hurricane Sandy violated State law, inviting fraud, study finds | NJ.com
Emergency measures intended to allow people to vote in the days immediately following Hurricane Sandy violated state law, concludes a highly-critical report released today by the Rutgers School of Law in Newark. The study said those measures—which included allowing people to request mail-in ballots by fax and email—led to mass confusion, overwhelming many county clerks on election day. According to Penny Venetis, the co-director of the Constitutional Rights Clinic at Rutgers School of Law-Newark who authored the report, the internet and fax voting hastily put in play by the state in the wake of the storm was not only was illegal, but also left votes vulnerable to online hacking. “Internet voting should never be permitted, especially in emergencies when governmental infrastructure is already compromised,” she said in her report. A spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie, however, said the law school’s findings ignored everything the state did in making sure as many people as possible had an opportunity to vote under what were extreme circumstances. “The truth is that as a state, we were dealing with a disaster and catastrophic damage,” said the spokesman, Michael Drewniak. “We should be lauded for what we were able to do.”
It is rare for a politician to publicly deride efforts to boost voter turnout. It is seen as a taboo in a country that prides itself on its democratic ideals. Yet, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie last week slammed efforts to simplify voter registration. Referring to Illinois joining other states — including many Republican-led ones — in passing a same-day voter registration law, Christie said: “Same-day registration all of a sudden this year comes to Illinois. Shocking. It’s shocking. I’m sure it was all based on public policy, good public policy to get same-day registration here in Illinois just this year, when the governor is in the toilet and needs as much help as he can get.” Christie was campaigning for Illinois GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, who is challenging Democratic incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn, who signed the same-day registration bill into law in July. Christie, who chairs the Republican Governors Association, denounced the effort to boost voter turnout as an underhanded Democratic tactic, despite the Illinois State Board of Elections being composed equally of Democrats and Republicans. Referring to the same-day voter initiative, Christie said Quinn “will try every trick in the book,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Christie said the program is designed to be a major “obstacle” for the GOP’s gubernatorial candidates. The trouble with such rhetoric – beyond its anti-democratic themes — is its absurd assertions about partisan motives. After all, many of the 11 states with same-day registration laws currently have Republican governors.
Illinois: Christie Slams Effort To Boost Voter Turnout For 2014 Election As Democratic ‘Trick’ | International Business Times
During a campaign stop in Illinois on Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie decried efforts to simplify voter registration. He suggested that the higher voter turnout produced by such efforts is harmful to Republican candidates, and that Illinois’ new same-day voter registration statute is a Democratic “trick.” Referring to Illinois joining other states — including many Republican-led ones — in passing a same-day voter registration law, Christie said: “Same-day registration all of a sudden this year comes to Illinois. Shocking. It’s shocking. I’m sure it was all based on public policy, good public policy to get same-day registration here in Illinois just this year, when the governor is in the toilet and needs as much help as he can get.” … Christie, who chairs the Republican Governors Association, denounced the effort to boost voter turnout as an underhanded Democratic tactic. (The Illinois State Board of Elections is composed equally of Democrats and Republicans, according to the Chicago Tribune.) Referring to the same-day voter initiative, Christie said Quinn “will try every trick in the book,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Christie said the program is designed to be a major “obstacle” for the GOP’s gubernatorial candidates. In fact, most of the 11 states with same-day registration laws currently have Republican governors.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s chances to be the 2012 Republican vice-presidential nominee were hampered by a U.S. regulation that could have an even bigger impact on the next race for the White House. The three-year-old rule from the Securities and Exchange Commission effectively bars governors and other state officials from raising money from Wall Street for state or federal elections. Having Christie on the ticket would have complicated Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, which took in more money from securities and investment firms than any other industry. Now, with governors including Christie, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana contemplating a White House run in 2016, two state Republican committees have filed a lawsuit to overturn the regulation.
If Gov. Christie were to resign early to pursue a bid for the presidency, a special election could be held to replace him, depending on the timing of his resignation. That scenario – an unusual one – could put candidates with lesser financial resources at a disadvantage: Unlike candidates in a regular gubernatorial election, they wouldn’t be able to opt into the state’s public financing program to raise money for their campaigns. The discrepancy, realized by officials at the state Election Law Enforcement Commission, prompted the introduction of a bill that cleared a Senate committee Monday.
Quick: Name a senator who served between the Civil War and World War I. Struggling? Now name a tycoon who bought senators during the same period. J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller … it’s easier. And for good reason. The tycoons mattered more. Gilded Age industrialists—who had amassed levels of wealth unseen in American history—frequently dominated the politicians who enjoyed putative power to write the laws. In 1896, when corporations could give directly to political candidates, pro-corporate Republican presidential candidate William McKinley raised $16 million to populist Democrat William Jennings Bryan’s $600,000. “All questions in a democracy,” declared McKinley’s campaign manager, Mark Hanna, are “questions of money.” The Roberts Court seems to agree. The astonishing concentration of wealth among America’s super-rich, combined with a Supreme Court determined to tear down the barriers between their millions and our elections, is once again shifting the balance of power between politicians and donors. You could see it during last weekend’s “Sheldon primary,” when four major presidential contenders flocked to Las Vegas to court one man.
The critics were united. Confusion and inconvenience, they said, would lead to an embarrassingly low voter turnout at the special U.S. Senate election Gov. Chris Christie had called for a Wednesday in mid-October, a mere 20 days before the regularly scheduled November voting. And they were right. Only 24 percent of the state’s registered voters took part. It was higher than the participation rate when your average New Jersey fire district chooses its commissioners, but it was the lowest figure ever for a general election. Some performance. Some payoff for the $12 million extra it cost the state to vote on two days instead of one. Why did the governor set it up that way? If you’re not a rabid Christie partisan, the answer should be easy. As a candidate for a second term on the Nov. 5 ballot, he preferred not to share it with popular Democratic Senate candidate Cory Booker and diminish his own chances for the landslide victory he’d like to be able to flaunt when the time comes for him to pursue the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
On October 16, some five million New Jersey residents can head to the polls and cast their votes for the senator of their choice. And twenty days later, they can go to the polls again to vote for governor. The reason: New Jersey’s October 16 special election. On June 3, 2012, New Jersey Senator Frank S. Lautenberg died while serving as a New Jersey senator. The next day, NJ Governor Chris Christie issued a Writ of Election setting the date for primaries for the vacant seat on August 13, 2013, and a general election for the seat on October 16, 2013. For political pundits in New Jersey, Christmas comes twice this year. But state Democrats—as well as some Republicans, county governments, minority and public interest groups, and coastal communities – aren’t seeing it that way. For these groups, the October 16 special election is a political ploy— and an expensive one. The special election is estimated to cost the state $12 millionmore than having the senate vacancy election on Election Day 2013, according to anopinion issued this summer by the state’s bipartisan Office of Legislative Services, obtained by the Huffington Post. Democrats criticized Christie for wasting taxpayer money to serve his own political ends (namely, avoiding Cory Booker’s supporters at the polls in November).
On October 16th – a Wednesday, no less – New Jersey voters are being asked to go to the polls to select a new U.S Senator to replace Jeffrey Chiesa, Gov. Chris Christie’s stand-in for the long-time Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg, who died earlier this year. Bizarrely, this oh-so-special election takes place just 20 days before these same voters will be asked to return to the polls for the regularly scheduled election for governor and state legislature. The cost to New Jersey taxpayers? Some $12 million. The adverse impact on voter turnout for having two separate elections in 20 days? Significant. The partisan calculation behind the election date? Blatant. It’s hard to know when we’ll hit bottom in shameless manipulation of our electoral laws by leaders of both major parties, but let’s hope it doesn’t get much lower than Gov. Christie’s “datemander.” When announcing his election schedule last spring, Christie justified the October 16th date with his professed belief that New Jersey voters needed as many days as possible with an elected Senator – then proceeded to appoint a Republican who for four months opposed most of the positions held by the man originally elected by those voters.
In early May, Gov. Chris Christie arrived at the Liberty National Golf Course in New Jersey for a political fund-raiser. Donors, many of them longtime backers of his, enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and views of the Lower Manhattan skyline while he spoke of the important work to be done on issues like jobs and the economy. Not a single check was written to Mr. Christie’s campaign. Indeed, some of those in attendance were legally prohibited from doing so, because they had sizable contracts with state agencies and were therefore barred by New Jersey law from making large contributions to the governor. Instead, the donors wrote checks for as much as $100,000 to the Republican Governors Association, an organization Mr. Christie helps lead that has collected $1.65 million from New Jersey donors during the first six months of the year. The association has, in turn, poured $1.7 million into Mr. Christie’s re-election effort, with television advertisements attacking State Senator Barbara Buono, his Democratic opponent in the election this year.
Gov. Chris Christie today vetoed a measure that would had New Jersey voters casting ballots on just one election day this fall: Oct. 16. “Moving the date of the general election has the potential to cause unnecessary voter confusion, as the general election takes place at the same time each year,” Christie said in his veto message of the bill to move the election (A4237). “While the bill would require the Secretary of State to provide appropriate notice regarding the date change, there is no guarantee that every voter would know that the general election had been moved to October.” After U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) died on June 3, Democrats wanted Christie to call the special election to fill his seat for Nov. 5 — the same day Christie and candidates for all 120 seats in the Legislature are on the ballot. Christie, however, called the Senate special election for Wednesday, Oct. 16. The special election is estimated to cost an extra $12 million. Democrats charged it was because he did not want to share the ballot with a high profile Senate race.
With special elections to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat fast approaching, Mercer County election officials received word yesterday that the state will reimburse their election expenses — but they are still trying to figure out how they will come up with the upfront costs of the balloting. “It looks like it’s going to cover the majority of the costs,” Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami-Covello said. “It’s a very good thing and I was pleased to see the letter.” Mercer County’s costs for a primary next month and the special election in October are expected to approach $1.2 million. A letter from the Department of State says the state will cover costs such as ballot printing, board worker salaries, overtime for county or municipal election office staff, polling place rentals and voting machine transportation.
New Jersey: Hunterdon, Warren counties won’t receive special election funding until after votes | lehighvalleylive.com
State reimbursement for the costs of the upcoming special primary and elections will not come until after October’s election is over, Hunterdon County Administrator Cynthia Yard told freeholders Tuesday. That means the county should be prepared to authorize and pay overtime for poll workers during both elections, Yard said. Though the board offered no protest, Freeholder Matthew Holt asked Yard to reassure him that poll workers would be closely monitoring their hours and expenses. “I just want to make sure they’re tracking that,” Holt said. …The state Office of Legislative Services projects both elections to cost about $24 million statewide.