Broadens Access to Polls and Increases Election Security
TRENTON – In a public ceremony at Trenton’s Hughes Justice Complex, Governor Phil Murphy today signed into law legislation sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale and Senator James Beach to improve voter registration.
“Automatic registration on a driver’s license or permit application facilitates the process of upholding our civic duty to vote and reduces the chance of being turned away at the polls if we’ve had a change of address,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “I’m happy we’ve made it easier for citizens to register to vote and that we’re encouraging their participation in the democratic process while at the same time providing necessary “opt out” safeguards for vulnerable individuals.”
“Automatic voter registration is a critical first step in modernizing our elections and improving voter participation,” said Senator Beach (D-Camden/Burlington). “By making it easier for people to register and update any change of address, we will improve voter turnout and add a level of precision to our voter rolls.”
The law provides for automatic voter registration or registration updates as part of any application for a special learner’s permit, an examination permit, a probationary or basic driver’s license, or a non-driver identification card, or as part of a renewal of any license or identification card, unless the applicant specifically declines the automatic voter registration.
Applicants who do not decline voter registration will be required to affirm that they are eligible to vote. A separate statement will also be provided with the application notifying applicants that victims of domestic violence or stalking may decline the automatic voter registration and register to vote without disclosing their street address.
Online license renewals will be used for automatic voter registration only when online voter registration is in place. The law also requires that license renewals by mail will be used for automatic voter registration only if the Chief Administrator of the MVC deems it practicable. Every six months, the Chief Administrator will be required to send an update to the Governor and the Legislature on the practicability of such measure.
Under the previous law, voter registration was an option at the Motor Vehicle Commission during license applications or renewals. Today’s newly signed legislation will require individuals to opt out, a proven technique to increase voter registration. The law will allow other agencies, upon the approval of the Secretary of State, to implement automatic voter registration.
In March 2015, Oregon became the first state to automatically register eligible citizens with driver’s licenses. Since then, California, Vermont and West Virginia have adopted similar laws.
Currently, 27 other states have pending legislation to create automatic voter registration.