By Renee Steinhagen
ince our inception, NJ Appleseed has focused its efforts on legal electoral reform issues. Most recently, we have characterized our efforts in this area as “Empowering Democracy,” including two distinct projects: Enabling the Franchise (improving access to and encouraging participation in elections, campaign finance reform initiatives and promoting alternative forms of voting) and Facilitating Initiative and Referendum. For the past four to five years, NJ Appleseed served as co-counsel with the Rutgers Clinic (representing the Rutgers Student Union Association, NJ Citizen Action, the Latino Action Alliance and several individual voters) in a constitutional challenge to New Jersey’s advanced election registration system. The theory behind the case was that in light of the implementation of the State’s electronic Statewide Voter Registration System (with its capacity to verify voters identifying information within 24 hours) and its employment of provisional ballot affirmation statements, which are effective registration forms, the State had no valid interest justifying the burden imposed by such requirement on an individual’s right to vote under the State Constitution. The litigation went to the Appellate Division twice, before our Petition for Certification before the NJ Supreme Court was denied.
I would like to convert our litigation theories into several mini-white papers that would support and frame a legislative campaign to secure Same-Day Registration through our current provisional ballot system. Such papers would focus on (1) the burden imposed on voters by advanced registration, in particular low-income voters; (2)the administration of same-day registration schemes in other States; (3) the logistics of voting in NJ including the challenge system, the mailing of ballots, the counting of mail and provisional ballots, and other administrative features; and (4) the capacity of the current SVR system to detect in person fraud or double voting.
NJ Appleseed would draft a proposed bill amending the current election code and generate a grass-roots campaign, with its partners, across the State to generate public support for permitting Same-Day registration by employing our current provisional ballot system. Depending on the outcome of the November 2017 election, I anticipate that we could get this change enacted by the middle of 2018 if Democrats prevail in the Legislature and Governor’s office.
- Rutgers Constitutional Rights Clinic
- NJ League of Women Voters
- Common Cause
- NJ Citizen Action
- Princeton Indivisible Group