No Early Voting in New Jersey
Governor Christie yesterday vetoed a bill that would have allowed early voting in New Jersey. After reading the following, comment on whether or not New Jersey should have adopted this measure. Do the benefits outweigh the costs (both real and potential)?
Christie vetoes early voting bill, angering Democrats
on May 09, 2013 at 3:35 PM, updated May 10, 2013 at 7:16 AM
The Republican governor called a proposal to let voters cast ballots at designated polling places during a 15-day period before Election Day “hasty, counterproductive and less reliable” than the current system.
“I support responsible and cost-efficient election reform that increases voter participation because democracy works best when the most people vote,” Christie said in the veto message. “But this bill risks the integrity and orderly administration of our elections by introducing a new voting method and process.”
Christie’s veto bucks a national trend. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia had instituted some form of in-person early voting as of September 2012, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. That does not include New Jersey, which allows absentee voting without having to provide an excuse.
State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex), a primary sponsor of the bill (S2364), said Christie’s veto shows he is out of step with most states.
“The governor now joins other Republican governors who have sought to stifle the vote and limit access to the polls,” she said. “Once again he is catering to his national base at the expense of New Jersey residents.”
Currently, voters can cast a “mail-in-ballot” by mailing or hand-delivering a competed ballot to their county clerk starting 45 days before the election.
Christie said the expanded early voting system envisioned by the Legislature would create a side-by-side voting process, noting it would cost the state $23 million in the first year and $2 million each year after that. He also questioned the security of transporting paper ballots around the state during the early voting period and the call for a quick setup before July 1.
Christie, who is seeking re-election, raised the ire of unions and the Democratic Governors Association, who are backing his likely opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex).
“The governor’s veto shamefully silences the voices of an untold number of New Jersey families,” New Jersey AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech said. The Democratic Governors Association immediately issued a statement likening Christie to what it called “shameless Republican governors restricting voting rights for partisan political gain,” citing Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and others.
“Governor Christie’s veto is yet another example of Republican politicians taking the cynical view that making voting more difficult will win them more elections,” Buono said.
Hurricane Sandy damaged polling places and severely limited residents’ ability to get around the state days before the November presidential election. In response, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno issued a last-minute patchwork of directives intended to help people vote, including letting residents request and return mail-in ballots by fax and e-mail.
Christie said those measures worked well and the election went smoothly, pointing to the nearly 300,000 mail-in ballots cast. Voting rights advocates maintain that many residents were disenfranchised.
About 67 percent of New Jersey voters cast their ballots last year. For at least a century, New Jersey had never gone below 70 percent voter turnout in a presidential election year.