Same-day voter registration ‘catastrophic’ idea, opponents say
TRENTON – If New Jersey were to begin allowing election-day voter registration, a change sought by Gov. Phil Murphy and others, it appears unlikely to enjoy a bipartisan vote in the Legislature.
The Assembly members in the 13th District announced Tuesday that they oppose the legislation, which isn’t currently scheduled for a vote. They said it would undermine the integrity of the election process and create havoc at polling places.
They also cite the potential price tag, saying it comes after increased costs imposed by voting changes such as electronic poll books and early voting over the last few election cycles.
“This bill imposes yet another financial burden upon New Jersey taxpayers without any justifiable reason, which is unfair after the additional costs imposed by Trenton on counties with early voting,” said Assemblywoman Vicky Flynn, R-Monmouth. “Having enough poll workers to manage polling locations on Election Day was a challenge. Adding this additional administrative burden upon poll workers would be unfair.”
“The proposal for same-day voter registration would be catastrophic in maintaining the integrity of our already overburdened election system,” said Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger, R-Monmouth. “… Our election system is too important to consistently create the potential for fraud that bills such as this would enable.”
Twenty-one states have same-day voter registration. It’s more commonly allowed in Democratic states though not exclusively, as it also exists in Idaho, Iowa, Utah and Wyoming.
Montana ended its same-day voter registration last spring, though its deadline remains noon the day before an election. In New Jersey, the deadline is 21 days.
Murphy supports bringing it to New Jersey and said it remains a priority for his second term. Former Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, did not and said there were widespread concerns in the Democratic caucus, and it’s unclear whether the bill will stand a better chance under new Senate President Nick Scutari, D-Union.
The bill (S247/A1966) has two sponsors and six co-sponsors in the Senate and two sponsors and 10 co-sponsors in the Assembly, all of whom are Democrats. Scutari isn’t among them.
The bill would make the standard voter registration deadline eight days before an election and allow people to register at their assigned polling place on election day or at their county clerk's office by 3 p.m. the day before an election.
The proposal was introduced last August but didn’t get a hearing. It was reintroduced last month at the start of the new two-year session.
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.