New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill Monday that would have made casting a ballot much easier in the Garden State, which has been plagued by low turnout.
The measure, known as the Democracy Act, was passed in June by the Democratic-controlled legislature, and was strongly backed by voting rights advocates. It would have guaranteed two weeks of in-person early voting, including on weekends, would have automatically registered New Jerseyans to vote when they got a driver’s license or state ID, and would have established a system of online voter registration.
Christie’s decision sparked an outpouring of criticism from voting rights and good government groups.
“Automatic registration is good for the country, and good for New Jersey,” said Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, which had pushed for the legislation. “The Democracy Act would have made our registration lists more accurate and up to date, and voting more flexible and convenient. We are extremely disappointed Governor Christie chose to veto a bill with these kinds of proven benefits. Instead of passing laws that make it harder for Americans to vote, lawmakers must work to modernize our voting system for the 21st century.”
Christie’s move wasn’t unexpected. Soon after the bill passed, he expressed skepticism about it on his radio show: “Is it really too much to ask to ask somebody to fill out a form to execute their right to vote?” he asked. “Is it really so much to ask people that if they’re in the state that they show up on Election Day and vote? The polls are open from six in the morning til eight in the evening.”
“There’s much more politics behind this than there is democracy,” Christie added.
But a recent Rutgers University poll showed that two-thirds of New Jerseyans supported early voting measures — almost the exact same share that backed allowing automatic registration.
In 2014, just 30.4% of eligible voters in New jersey cast a ballot — among the worst rates in the nation.
Several blue states have enacted expansive voting measures lately. California and Oregon both passed automatic registration laws, and similar bills have been introduced in a slew of other states. Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have both been vocal supporters of automatic registration.
Christie’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination has largely failed to gain traction. At around 2% in national polls, he’ll be consigned to the under-card event at Tuesday’s Fox News debate.
Update, 3:35 p.m.:
Hillary Clinton criticized Christie’s veto in a tweet sent Monday afternoon: