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.
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.
Editorials: As another early voting measure comes around, expect more Christie amnesia | Star-Ledger
Another early voting bill has passed through the Senate, and though it is likely to face the same grim fate as its progenitors once it reaches the governor’s desk, its necessity has never been more apparent. The lesson derived from a recent report by the Constitutional Rights Clinic at the Rutgers School of Law is watertight: Opening polling sites for days or weeks before Election Day would revitalize civic interest, increase turnout, and prevent the chaos that can result from weather emergencies. Speaking of which, the study specifically cites the Keystone Kop choreography of Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, calling the measures she took that year “illegal, insecure, and confusing,” and asserting that her unauthorized executive decisions “unilaterally altered New Jersey election law.”
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.
Less than six weeks after a report found New Jersey’s election system after Superstorm Sandy was chaotic and left voters vulnerable to hackers, the state Senate passed a measure to allow early voting. The legislation is seen by proponents as a more effective solution to voting in emergencies while getting in line with most other states. Rutgers University School of Law found that in the 2012 election, one week after Sandy knocked out power to power to 2.4 million homes and businesses in New Jersey, a directive to allow voting by fax and email “increased the chaos clerks experienced trying to run the election.” The report also noted that New Jersey law does not allow for Internet voting.
Texas’ strict new voter ID law is being put to its first widespread test. Early voting for the November 5 elections began Monday, and there have already been signs of trouble. Under the controversial new legislation, which supporters claim prevents fraud, all voters must supply an approved form of photo identification that exactly matches the name on their voter registration cards. The U.S. Department of Justice slapped Texas with a lawsuit over this issue in August, arguing the law disenfranchises minority voters. But it could hit women particularly hard, especially those who use their maiden names or hyphenated names. Sonia Gill, an attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, warned many voters might be in for an unpleasant surprise on Election Day. “Women in particular are going to have a difficult time because they are more likely to have changed their names and, as a result, the name on their photo ID may not match up to the name listed on their voter registration.”
A national civil rights attorney made stops in East Texas Monday, visiting with communities about Texas’ new voter ID law. Sonia Gill is an attorney representing the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a group that has filed a lawsuit to repeal the recently implemented law. She said her priority during her stops in Longview and Mt. Pleasant today was to make sure voters know what to expect in upcoming elections. “When I go out and speak to some of the churches, everybody knows somebody who’s going to have a problem getting documents required to vote,” Gill said. Texas recently re-implemented the law, after the Supreme Court narrowly overturned part of the Voting Rights Act. Those provisions required Texas to clear any new voting laws with the federal government.
Joanne Nyikita is all for early voting, just not the way it is set up in a bill sitting on the governor’s desk. Nyikita is superintendent of elections in Burlington County, and in the weeks before a presidential election, she says, she and her staff work 15-hour days, seven days a week, registering voters and making sure things run smoothly. By in effect adding two weeks before the election during which voters can cast their ballots, she said, the state would vastly increase the work of already overstretched county election boards. Nyikita said that creating an electronic database for early-voting records would greatly lighten the load, but that there was no money for it. “It could not be done every day for two weeks. It simply could not be done,” said Nyikita, executive vice president of the New Jersey Association of Election Officials.
A bill to allow residents to cast votes at polling places starting 15 days before Election Day is one step closer to reaching the governor’s desk. The Senate today voted 24-16 to pass the early voting bill (S2364), which would let voters cast their ballots early until the Sunday before the election. State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex) said she wants to encourage residents’ participation in democracy. “Early voting would ensure that even in an emergency, just as a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy, or in case of unforeseen personal scheduling conflicts, residents will still be able to get to the polls and exercise their most fundamental right to vote.”
New Jersey voters could cast their ballots starting 15 days before an election under legislation introduced today by Sen. Nia Gill, D-Essex. The bill creates an early voting system, which some legislators and election experts say could have reduced the confusion caused when superstorm Sandy hit a week before this year’s election. Polling places would be open for eight hours a day, seven days a week starting 15 days before Election Day. Early voting would end two days before the election. People who want to vote early would go to a polling place and cast their ballots just like they would on Election Day itself. The legislation would apply to primary and general elections.