Since 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.
Despite the human and fiscal harm that would result from repeal, Republicans have pronounced it a priority and on January 4, the Senate took an initial step toward that goal, approving a budget resolution that would clear the way for such legislation. The House is expected to follow suit next week.
In its last frenzied voting session before the end-of-year break, the New Jersey Legislature passed a resolution that calls on Congress not to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, also commonly referred to as Obamacare. The complete text of Assembly Concurrent Resolution 222 can be found here.
It is hard to believe now but in the decades following its creation in 1921, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was considered a prime example of an effective and efficient public agency that truly operated in the public interest.
That reputation has been sullied in recent years and not just by the Bridgegate lane-closing scandal and the ensuing criminal convictions of some of those involved. There is also former Port Authority chairman David Samson, who was convicted of misusing his position to shake down United Airlines so that it would reinstate direct flights from Newark to his weekend home. On a broader scale are revelations of how New Jersey Governor Chris Christie used the agency’s resources to reward political allies, while tolls at Port Authority crossings and fares hikes on PATH trains have been repeatedly hiked.
UPDATE: Since this article was written, the New Jersey Supreme Court has denied an appeal, leaving the issue for the Legislature to address.
Permitting Election Day Registration for Voters
In a test case with nation-wide implications, the New Jersey Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether it is constitutional to require voters to register prior to Election Day now that electronic voter databases have made it much easier and faster to determine eligibility.
The plaintiffs in Rutgers Student Assembly v. Middlesex County Board of Elections seek to convince the Court to strike down the New Jersey law requiring that voters to register at least 21 days before an election.
Our recent policy articles have asked this question. New Jersey Appleseed is currently involved in a case that is working it’s way through the NJ Court System whereby the answer to this question from a group of concerned citizens in Newark is a decided “no.”
To read the appeal of City of Newark’s Zoning Board of Adjustment’s 13th d(l) use variance for a parking lot at 28 McWhorter Street, filed by Renee Steinhagen on behalf of group of concerned citizens click here.