New Jersey lawmakers take another shot at same-day voter registration bill

By: - November 22, 2023 7:13 am

Multiple studies have shown that same-day voter registration leads to a bump in voter turnout, with the most significant impact on Black, Latino, and young voters. (Daniella Heminghaus for New Jersey Monitor)

Lawmakers have revamped a bill that would allow for same-day voter registration in New Jersey, a goal of progressive activists that has previously met with resistance from state Senate leadership.

Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, a prime sponsor of the bill, said New Jersey should join the 20 other states that already allow eligible residents to register to vote at the polls. Mukherji will be joining the state Senate in January after voters gave him a promotion earlier this month.

“Why should we be turning away eligible voters? This is going to become increasingly important as more and more young people come of age for voting,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “I think this bill would be good for democracy, and I hope to persuade my colleagues to support it.”

Under current law, residents must register to vote 21 days before an election to participate in that election. Mukherji’s proposal would allow people to register to vote at an early voting site during the early voting period or at their polling place on Election Day, and then vote. They would be required to produce an ID, like a driver’s license, or proof of address, like a utility bill.

A previous version of the bill was set to be heard by a Senate committee in March 2022, but the hearing was canceled by Senate leadership. Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) has previously expressed opposition to same-day voter registration. 

Henal Patel of the New Jersey Institute of Social Justice is among the group of advocates who have called on lawmakers to prioritize same-day voter registration legislation before the new legislative session begins in January.

“It’s common sense. There’s no reason we shouldn’t have it,” she said. “There’s no reason to disenfranchise voters, especially given how often we talk about wanting people to turn out and vote and participate.”

Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, who joins the state Senate in January, said he hopes to convince his colleagues that same-day voter registration is a good idea. (Dana DiFilippo | New Jersey Monitor)

States like Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, New Mexico, and Vermont allow for same-day voter registration. New York allows for same-day registration on the first day of early voting only. 

Multiple studies have shown that same-day voter registration leads to a bump in voter turnout, with the most significant impact on Black, Latino, and young voters. A 2021 study from the University of Massachusetts found Black and Latino voter turnout can be up to 17 points higher in states with same-day registration.

Mukherji stressed the importance of allowing more eligible voters to participate at a time when 18 states are looking at laws making it more difficult for citizens to vote.

He wouldn’t comment on why legislative leadership has been hesitant to take up the proposal. Mukherji said he plans to reintroduce the measure in 2024 if it doesn’t pass this session.

Scutari voiced concerns last year over the strain on overworked election workers and maintaining confidence in voting systems. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Scutari also previously told reporters that he believes it’s important for politicians to know who their constituency is — something that would be impossible if residents were allowed to register to vote on Election Day.

“People who don’t exercise their right to vote don’t necessarily get the same attention paid to them by people running for office, to be quite frank,” he said in March 2022. 

Patel criticized this sentiment as one that helps politicians but hurts voters who would benefit from the expanded access. Getting more people to vote is ultimately a good thing, she added.

“It all comes down to being able to predict turnout and who wins, because this legislation would have folks turn out that you didn’t anticipate. That’s a general issue with our broader democracy, not just around the country, but here in New Jersey,” Patel said.

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for NJ.com, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.

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