On January 21, Governor Murphy signed 3 important League of Women Voters championed bills into law - legislation to implement online voter registration, a bill to end prison-based gerrymandering, and legislation that makes data needed for redistricting more accessible to the public. Taken together, these reforms along with legislation signed last month to restore voting rights to people on parole and probation, put New Jersey on the path to a more representative democracy.
"We are stronger and fairer when more New Jerseyans are represented in our democracy," said Governor Murphy. "Expanding access to voting is one of many ways we can work to enfranchise more voters and ensure that all eligible voters are able to participate in the democratic process."
New Jersey was one of only a handful of states that did not provide a process for voters to register to vote online. This much needed modernization helps remove barriers to voter registration while ensuring the process remains secure and accurate. Independent studies show that online voter registration improves the accuracy of the voter rolls dramatically, by significantly reducing the rate of human errors that occur from manually inputting handwritten information into electronic databases.
New Jersey is now the seventh state to end prison-based gerrymandering, the undemocratic and discriminatory practice that counts incarcerated individuals as residents of correctional facilities during the redistricting process. Due to extreme racial disparities in New Jersey's incarceration rates, this means prison-based gerrymandering more severely denies Black and Latinx communities a full voice in our democracy. New Jersey will now rightfully count people who are incarcerated at their last home address when determining our legislative voting districts.
"We applaud the Legislature and Governor for taking action to correct this defect in our democracy. Our district boundary lines need to reflect reality, and right now they do not. But with this new law that ends prison-based gerrymandering, New Jersey is one step closer to achieving fair and equal representation and fair maps after the 2021 redistricting cycle," said Helen Kioukis, Program Associate of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey.
The third piece of legislation signed into law, the Voting Precinct Transparency Act, streamlines, centralizes, and democratizes data needed for the public to draw legal district maps of their own and/or check the work of the redistricting commissioners. Public engagement in redistricting is the best gerrymandering-prevention mechanism, and this bill will support our Fair Districts campaign's ongoing public engagement efforts.
"These reforms make our democracy more transparent, inclusive, and accessible. We applaud Governor Murphy and the Legislature for their commitment to empowering voters and removing barriers to participation. At a time when too many Americans feel they do not have a meaningful voice in our democracy, New Jersey is establishing ourselves as a leader in protecting the sacred right to vote and expanding access for those who have been marginalized and left out of our democratic process," said Jesse Burns, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey.
The League of Women Voters of New Jersey has been advocating for many of these bills for over a decade. These monumental and historic voting rights victories are only possible because of our strong partnerships with other voting rights and social justice organizations and because of the dedication and advocacy of our members and supporters.
Thank you for making your voice heard. You truly made a difference for New Jersey voters.
Jesse Burns, Executive Director
League of Women Voters of New Jersey