New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D)
On Thursday, New Jersey’s Democratic-run state legislature passed a bill to automatically register eligible voters when they obtain or renew their driver’s license or state ID card, unless they opt out. This bill now goes to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, who is expected to sign it after campaigning in favor of the issue. Automatic registration will make voting more accessible and help keep voting rolls more accurate and up-to-date.
Importantly, this new system could potentially reach beyond the state Motor Vehicle Commission, since it also gives the secretary of state the option to expand automatic registration to other state agencies that have the ability to verify whether citizens are eligible to vote. Only the Motor Vehicle Commission will actually be required to implement automatic registration, though an eventual expansion seems likely. That will be critical for reaching voters who don’t drive, such as the elderly, disabled, and those who rely on public transportation.
With New Jersey poised to become the latest state to enact automatic registration, it’s a reminder of just how important it is for voting rights advocates to elect progressive Democrats to office. New Jersey’s Democratic legislature had previously passed automatic registration in 2016, but Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the measure. However, after Murphy’s victory in last November’s election gave Democrats unified control over state government, Democrats are now preparing to pass several more bills to expand voting rights.