On May 26, coalition of democracy advocates (the “Coalition”) including the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey and Episcopal Community Services of New Jersey held a rally and lobby day at the statehouse in Trenton urging passage of pending legislation (A1966/S247) to establish same-day voter registration in New Jersey, including on Election Day. A list of Coalition members is below.
“We showed up in Trenton today to make the case that the New Jersey Legislature has before it a bill that can easily and effectively expand our democracy in New Jersey, and there is no justifiable reason not to pass it,” said a statement released by the Coalition. “New Jersey has the opportunity in this crucial moment to provide its voters with Democracy in a Day and take a stand for voting access – and should not squander it. We are one of the most diverse states in the nation, and we must demonstrate that we are not afraid of democracy – we embrace it. It’s past time New Jersey become the national leader it likes to think of itself as when it comes to democracy and voting access.”
Since the same-day voter registration bill was introduced, attacks on democracy in the country and across the world have continued unabated. Legislation across the United States continues to block access to the ballot and disenfranchise voters – most often impacting Black and other voters of color.
Same-day registration has been shown to increase turnout for Black and Latina/Latino voters, and in particular young people. It will also cost the state little – if anything – since it uses already-existing infrastructure. Yet despite support from across the state and from Gov. Murphy, the bill remains stalled.
“At a time when our democratic institutions are deteriorating and increasingly under attack throughout the country, where some states are acting to impede voter rights and marginalize certain voices, we have an opportunity here in New Jersey to do something different,”said Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, a prime sponsor of A1966, at today’s rally. “We’re not reinventing the wheel, some form of same-day voter registration is available in [twenty] states and the District of Columbia and it’s consistently been found to be a safe, reliable method of registration not conducive to fraud.”
“It is crucial we are doing everything in our power to encourage civic engagement and make voting as accessible as possible,” said Senator Sandra Cunningham, prime sponsor of S247. “We have the technology we need to facilitate same-day voter registration and it is time we enact it. Especially with voting rights under siege around the country, we must send a clear message that we will not stand for that; here in New Jersey, we want our residents’ voices to be heard.”
“We can make sure that when you show up at a polling site, if you’re 18 or older, that you can vote on the same day and register, and we can handle it. We’re New Jersey,” said Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, a prime sponsor of A1966, at today’s rally. “So yes, we can be sure that we further enfranchise the over nine million people in our state to elect a person of their peers to serve in either municipal government, state government, county government, federal government or on their school boards.”
Senator Jon Bramnick, a Republican co-sponsor of S247, got to the core of the matter at today’s rally when he said, “I sponsored the bill for one simple reason – if you’re eligible to vote, you should vote. That’s it.”
Assemblyman John McKeon, a co-sponsor of A1966, delivered heartfelt and encouraging remarks to rally attendees today after having watched a group of children enter the statehouse and said, “We all have a profound sense of sadness in light of the events of the last 48 hours. But having seen the young children come by, not only did it evoke thoughts, but it evoked the children who you used to be and … something about you brought you to stand here today for something that’s right. And I hope as sad as we are about those that we’ve lost, those kids today, as they look through the statehouse, look back and reflect on the people that you are, that they too will be standing in the same place and defending our democracy.”
Twenty other states plus Washington, DC already have same-day voter registration. Recently, election officials from two of those states, Utah and Connecticut, briefed New Jersey officials on its success and impact. Currently, New Jersey maintains an arbitrary 21-day registration deadline, disenfranchising voters in every election. Voters who have moved, attend college out-of-state, have been erroneously purged from voting rolls or were recently released from being incarcerated, as well as new citizens, may easily find themselves unregistered on Election Day – sometimes unbeknownst to them – and an arbitrary deadline should not prevent them from exercising their voting rights.
Video of today’s rally can be found here.
Coalition members include:
American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey
Council on American-Islamic Relations of New Jersey
Delaware-New Jersey National Lawyers Guild
Disability Rights New Jersey
Episcopal Community Services of New Jersey
Fair Share Housing Center
Faith in New Jersey
Integrated Justice Alliance
Latinas United for Political Empowerment Fund, Inc.
Lawyers for Equal Access to Advocacy & Dignity
League of Women Voters of New Jersey
Latino Action Network
March for Our Lives New Jersey
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People New Jersey State Conference
National Association of Social Workers of New Jersey
New Jersey 11th for Change
New Jersey Citizen Action
New Jersey National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Youth & College
New Jersey Working Families Party
New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice
New Jersey Institute for Social Justice
NeighborCorps Re-Entry Services
New Brunswick Area National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
New Jersey Convention of Progressive Baptists
New Jersey League of Conservation Voters
New Jersey Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
People’s Organization for Progress
Salvation and Social Justice
Stand Up America
The Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey
The Prisoners Legal Advocacy Network
Unitarian Universalist FaithAction New Jersey