Over the last two years, New Jersey saw its ups and downs in the voting rights landscape. In 2021, the state passed a few key voting rights reforms, which include joining ERIC, early voting, and increasing access to drop boxes. However, 2022 was more of a mixed bag when it came to voting rights legislation — the Legislature passed a few minor pro-voter reforms, but we also saw two small restrictive measures passed. Unfortunately, the state also failed to take action on a bipartisan bill to adopt same-day voter registration, which would have been among the most impactful reforms for voters in New Jersey. While New Jersey definitely made some important strides ahead, there was ample opportunity lost for critical pro-voter reforms over the past two years, which is why New Jersey received a B on this year’s progress report.
Where New Jersey Started in 2020
- Automatic Voter Registration: Front-End
- Online Voter Registration: Open to all Eligible
- Same-Day Registration: No
- Restoration of Rights: Felon Disenfranchisement
- Vote by Mail: No-Excuse
- Electronic Registration Information Center Member: No
- Early Voting Opportunities: In-Person Absentee
- ID Requirements: No Document Required
Relying on the Cost of Voting Index for New Jersey as of 2020, we considered the state a top tier state for pre-existing voting policy and compared its 2021-22 activity against other top tier states.
How Our Tier Compares:
2021: Two Years Ago
In 2021, the New Jersey Legislature continued its streak of passing pro-voter reforms including instituting early voting and becoming a member of ERIC.
- S 3203 establishes a statewide in-person early voting period before all elections. It requires all counties to offer early voting at multiple locations starting ten days before the general election.
- S 3999 authorizes the state to join ERIC to help maintain the accuracy of its voter registration lists.
- A 5373 revises drop box siting requirements to ensure boxes are accessible for all voters. Changes include requiring boxes in lower income neighborhoods, relocating boxes that are located within 2,000 feet of each other, and requiring county officials to consider travel times, proximity to other boxes, and commuter traffic patterns when placing boxes.
- Implementation of early voting required a state-wide effort to modernize New Jersey’s aging election infrastructure. The Legislature approved an appropriation to provide counties with sufficient funds to upgrade their voting machines and to acquire e-poll books. This required significant work by local election officials to make changes rapidly in less than a year to be ready for their elections. Unfortunately, as a result of the rapid timeline for implementation, there were connectivity issues at several polling locations which caused e-poll books to be inoperable and led to long lines.
2022: This Past Year
During the 2022 session, the Legislature passed only a few modest pro-voter reforms. It also passed a few bills that slightly diminished access for some voters.
- A 3817 requires the secretary of state to establish an online portal for voters to change their name, address, or party affiliation and to establish a portal for voters to request permanent mail-in ballots by 2026.
- A 3822 allows counties to begin canvassing mail-in ballots five days before the election and explicitly allows voters to update their party affiliation as part of the automatic voter registration process at MVC offices.
- A 3820 removes the option for unaffiliated mail-in voters to receive both party primary ballots and choose one to vote by mail. Instead, these voters will receive notice of how to affiliate with a party and then vote in person.
- A 3819 removes voters from the permanent mail-in voter list if they fail to vote by mail for four years in a row and requires county officials to conduct a voter education campaign to inform voters about the potential to be removed from the list.
- The Legislature also failed to take action on a bipartisan bill to adopt same-day voter registration, which would be among the most impactful reforms for voters in New Jersey. The state Senate president blocked the bill from moving forward.
- New Jersey officially became a member of the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), which will help New Jersey election officials identify and conduct outreach to eligible but unregistered voters. ERIC also enables its member states to identify voters who have moved or who have duplicate registrations in other member states.