LWV of New Jersey Voting Reform Platform
In an effort to increase voter turnout, improve accessibility to the ballot, improve efficiency and save money, and ensure voting rights are protected, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey supports the following initiatives:
Online Voter Registration
New Jersey still relies heavily on voter registration forms that must be printed and wet signed. Allowing voters to register through a secure and accessible online portable is a reform that New Jersey should enact. At least 39 states currently (or soon will) offer online voter registration.
- Online voter registration improves the accuracy of voter rolls. Paper registration forms that are often handwritten and must be retyped are susceptible to error. Additionally, online voter registration does not allow for incomplete forms to be submitted.
- Online voter registration saves money. Startup costs have been low and are quickly recouped. There is less administrative time spent processing online voter registrations, saving money.
Automatic Voter Registration
Automatic voter registration is a commonsense reform that builds on existing technology. When eligible citizens interact with a government agency (like the MVC) their information is seamlessly sent to election officials for registration, unless they decline registration.
- Automatic voter registration increases registration rates and turnout. In Oregon, the first state to implement automatic voter registration, they are registering three to four times more voters at the DMV compared with prior years and voters who were automatically registered are turning out at higher rates than voters who registered through traditional means.
- Automatic voter registration saves money. The technology to transmit information electronically is already in place. The more registration information that is digitally transferred, the less administrative time has to be devoted to manually entering and updating voter information.
- Automatic voter registration improves the accuracy of our rolls. A recent study from Pew shows that one in eight voter registration records are outdated or incorrect. Automatic voter registration cuts downs on mistakes caused by illegible handwriting and data entry errors and is more likely to catch updates like change of address.
In-person Early Voting
New Jersey’s early voting options are limited to vote by mail ballots cast either through the mail or in-person at the county seat. While these are important options, they do not qualify as in-person early voting. Expanding in-person early voting options adds flexibility for voters increasing turnout, reduces the administrative burden on election days, and allows for early identification and correction of registration errors.
Same Day Voter Registration
With improvements of technology, the waiting period between the voter registration deadline and election day is no longer necessary.
- Same Day Voter Registration increases voter turnout. States that have same day voter registration lead the nation in voter turnout (New Jersey is amongst the lowest voter turnout states in the nation). Many citizens fail to update their voter registration information in time to meet the deadline or make a decision to participate in election day after the deadline.
- Same Day Voter Registration improves accuracy of voter rolls. Citizens are kept from participating because they have either failed to update their voting information or an administrative error has kept them from being correctly added to the voter rolls. With same day voter registration, these citizens will have an opportunity to participate.
- Reduces the number of discarded provisional ballots. Currently, citizens vote using provisional ballot when there is an error in their information or their names are missing. While these provisional ballots are used for future voter registration information, they may not be counted toward that election. Same day voter registration eliminates this kind of disenfranchisement.
Rights Restoration for Parolees and Probationers
Restoration of voting rights sooner is important criminal justice reform. Becoming civically engaged after incarceration reduces recidivism and encourages reintegration. New Jersey should automatically restore voting rights after prison release, extending voting rights (or never restricting them) to individuals on parole and probation.
- Due to inconsistencies with prosecution and sentencing, people of color and low income communities are disproportionally affected by felony disenfranchisement laws. Stripping voting rights from those on parole or probation weakens the political power of these communities. On the flip side, restoring voting rights helps reintegrate citizens with criminal records and strengthens democracy. Increased civic responsibility reinvests these individuals in their communities.
- Individuals on parole and probation are not imprisoned. They work, pay taxes, and function as part of a neighborhood. These individuals should have a say in the elected officials who represent them and the laws that govern them.
Portable Voter Registration
Registered voters who move in state should be able to cast a ballot even if they fail to issue a change of address. Suggestions above, like automatic voter registration and same day voter registration, can help prevent disenfranchisement of voters who have moved by ensuring that address changes are automatically sent to election officials and by allowing for voters to update their address at the polls. However in the meantime, New Jersey should allow inter-county provisional voting