Politics

Christie Should Not Have Rejected Voter Bill

| by Mark Jones
Governor Chris Christie speaks with Cindy McCain at an event in Phoenix, AZ.Governor Chris Christie speaks with Cindy McCain at an event in Phoenix, AZ.

Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Chistie was wrong to veto a bill that aimed to register all New Jersey residents to vote when they acquire or renew a driver's license.

Christie called the bill a “cocktail of fraud,” according to NJ.com, saying, “I don't think a lot to ask someone if you want to exercise your right and the privilege to vote to actually register."

Christie and other New Jersey lawmakers recently enhanced the motor vehicle registration process to allow citizens to register to vote at the same time, reports Philly.com. The new bill would have skipped the additional steps and automatically registered voters unless they explicitly stated they did not wish to register.

The bill would cost the state $1 million for implementation and $400,000 annually to continue the program.

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For Christie, the cost of the bill does not outweigh the benefits. But polling data proves otherwise.

A study conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2014 revealed that citizens' top reason for not voting was being “too busy.” Of respondents, 28 percent told the Census Bureau they were too busy to take time out of one Tuesday to exercise a civic duty that comes around every four years.

If respondents are too busy to vote on Election Day, when will they find the time or even remember to register to vote in elections?

Democratic Assemblyman Gary Schaer, a supporter of the recently rejected bill, said, “Sometimes voter turnout can be stymied simply by the fact that would-be voters have forgotten to update their registration because they moved.”

Americans vote a few times every four years, but most Americans of voting age find themselves driving every day. Acquiring and renewing a driver's license is high on the list of priorities.

While we would like to think that voting, a civic duty and privilege of living in a free, democratic society, also tops the list of Americans’ priorities, it simply does not.

Automatically registering voters at the Department of Motor Vehicles would prevent citizens from skipping out on the polls because they were “too busy” to register to vote.

According to Philly.com, Christie believes the bill would “effectively absolve from punishment individuals who unlawfully vote."

If implemented, voters would have to sign off on a statement ending with the warning, “I understand that willfully voting or attempting to vote knowing that I am not entitled to vote may subject me to a fine of up $15,000, imprisonment up to five years, or both."

For these reasons, Democratic state Sen. Joesph Vitale said, “the governor is flat-out wrong in both his refusal to sign the bill and his mischaracterization of what it would accomplish ... The legislation would improve voter participation and prevent any of the phantom abuses the governor claims could happen."

Democratic Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker said, “It's so critically important to vote and I believe we should be doing everything possible to encourage people to vote -- including young people.”

Spending the money on automatic registrations would be a wise investment. The policy would increase voter registration and, ultimately, voter turnout, leading to an election that more accurately represents the desires of the American people. 

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: NJ.com, U.S. Census Bureau, Philly.com / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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