An effort to increase voter registration throughout the state became law Tuesday afternoon, as Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill that introduces automatic voter registration policies to the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) and other entities.
The newly passed law (A2014) requires that the MVC registers any eligible resident to vote when seeking to get a driver’s permit, license or a non-driver identification card to vote.
“Today, New Jersey proudly joins a select group of states…that have enacted automatic voter registration to expand and protect the voting rights of their citizens,” Murphy said Tuesday. “This stands in stark contrast to those whose only interest lays in restricting voting rights and suppressing voters’ voices. In New Jersey, we recognize our democracy is stronger when more people are given the opportunity to participate and when the residents of our state are empowered to be part of the democratic process.”
For years, New Jersey residents were able to register at the MVC by checking a box asking whether they would like to register to vote or not. This new change means that the onus is on the resident to opt out. Anyone ineligible to vote will not be automatically registered.
Under the law, the commission’s chief administrator is responsible for ensuring that all relevant voter registration information is collected and electronically sent to the secretary of state.
“Democracy works better when more people vote,” Acting Motor Vehicle Commission Chair and Chief Administrator Sue Fulton said. “We are proud to serve the people of New Jersey every day, and we are proud to join the ranks of other states that offer automatic voter registration to their residents.”
The bill also gives other state agencies the ability to also implement automatic voter registration if that agency already collects proof of voter eligibility. The secretary of state would need to give the agency approval to do so before moving forward with automatic voter registration efforts. This expansion puts New Jersey in even more rarefied air, as only three other states have taken the additional step.
“Today, we are moving New Jersey forward in its effort to register all eligible citizens,” Secretary of State Tahesha Way said. “By using existing technology to advance our voter registration efforts, the state is demonstrating its commitment to increasing civic participation within our current infrastructure, without sacrificing voter integrity or security.”
Way said her office was working with all levels of state government to “ensure that all eligible voters can cast a safe and secure ballot at election time.”
The new law was signed just five days after the “New Voter Empowerment Act” was passed in the state Assembly by a vote of 56-17.
In that measure, proposed by Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, 17-year-old registered voters will be able to participate in primary elections if they would be 18-years-old on or by the following general election.
The bill has since gone before the state Senate for a final vote before potentially heading to Murphy, who will have the option to sign or veto the potential law.