Most news coverage of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie this week has focused on the Republican’s new efforts to shrink his expanded waistline, but it turns out that’s not the only thing he’s against expanding.
Christie vetoed a bill Thursday that would have created a two-week window for early in-person voting in New Jersey. Christie said he was primarily opposed to the cost of implementing the early voting program, which would have cost an extra $25 million the first year and about $2 million each year thereafter, insisting that the current system of voting early by mail is sufficient.
That would have required increasing the state’s $32.9 billion budget by less than one-tenth of 1% this year and less than a hundredth of 1% every year thereafter, but Christie’s has touted himself as a “fiscal conservative” and faces a budget shortfall for 2013.
New Jersey is one of only 18 states nationwide that currently doesn’t offer voters a chance to cast their ballots in person before election day. In-person early voting is often used by minority voters, especially African-Americans, in states where it is available. Christie, who enjoys high approval ratings in his state, receives his lowest ratings from African-American voters in recent polls. Only 19% say they would vote for Christie over his likely Democratic opponent Barbara Buono if the governor’s race were held today. By contrast, 30% of Democrats say they’d vote for Christie.
The bill’s sponsor, Democratic State Senator Nia Gill, slammed Christie for his veto on Thursday.
“The governor now joins other Republican governors who have sought to stifle the vote and limit access to the polls,” she said. “Once again he is catering to his national base at the expense of New Jersey residents.”
Those Republican governors include Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett and Virginia’s Bob McDonnell—who each signed a voter ID laws in the last year, Ohio’s John Kasich and Florida’s Rick Scott—who’ve supported restricting early voting.
Bills to create or expand in-person early voting were introduced in 19 states this year according to the Brennan Center. In Maryland, one such bill has passed and awaits Gov. Martin O’Malley’s signature, who’s expected to sign it.