Murphy signs MVC automatic voter registration bill

Christopher Lang, Correspondent, @topherlang2 | Apr 17, 2018 | MonroeNow

Governor Murphy signed new legislation Tuesday that requires the Motor Vehicle Commission to automatically register eligible residents to vote when they apply for a permit, license or ID card, unless they specifically decline.

“Democracy works better when more people vote,” said acting Motor Vehicle Commission Chair and Chief Administrator Sue Fulton.

The move makes New Jersey the 12th state to institute an automatic registration process. The law also allows other state agencies to automatically register voters when those individuals visit those offices, such as a social welfare facility. However, those agencies do not have to implement automatic registration.

“The more eligible people who are registered to vote, the stronger our democracy will be. Registering to vote should be simple and seamless,” Governor Murphy said. “Today, New Jersey enacted one of the most sweeping automatic voter registration policies in the nation to strengthen our democracy and expand voting rights.”

In response to the governor signing the bill into law, state Sen. Sam Thompson, R-12, said, “Governor Murphy is trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist on the New Jersey taxpayers’ dime. According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the New Jersey Division of Elections, 92 percent of eligible voters in the state are already registered and able to vote in elections should they choose to do so. Governor Murphy’s time would be better spent trying to fix things that are actually broken in government, such as our inequitable school funding formula, underfunded pension systems, and overly expensive public employee benefits that contribute to high property tax bills.”

Murphy tweeted on Monday that he would sign the bill on Tuesday, which the state Legislature approved last week, saying that in “the age of President Trump and voter suppression, states must expand, not just protect, voting rights.”

State Republican lawmakers were initially split about the MVC angel, but unanimously withdrew their support for the bill once it added all state agencies into the mix.

“It’s time to stop using the people of New Jersey as a piggy bank,” said State Sen. Tom Kean, Jr., R-Union, prior to the vote last week. “The automatic voter registration bill is a totally unnecessary expense. We will not stand by and allow politicians to play political games with taxpayer money.”

According to the Division of Elections, there are 5.8 million registered voters in New Jersey, with unaffiliated and Democrats totaling approximately 4.5 million of the voters and Republicans accounting for 1.2 million. The rest are registered with other parties.

The new process, however, does stipulate that applications would still have to meet the requirements to register to vote. People conducting business at an MVC can specifically decline to be registered automatically.

The Assembly approved the bill 50-23 and it passed in the Senate 24-13.

As a candidate, Governor Murphy supported the bill, which was vetoed by former Gov. Chris Christie in 2016.