Streams

As Voter Requirements Increase in Other States, NJ Goes Easy

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Across the country dozens of states have moved to restrict access to voter registration and voting by adding new identification requirements. But New Jersey is moving in the opposite direction.

"In 34 states voter ID laws and voter suppression have been happening. But we are lucky in the state of New Jersey," said Kerry Butch, executive director for the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. Butch notes that New Jersey makes registration relatively easy. 

Patty Dicostanzo is the superintendent of Elections for Bergen County, which is the county with the most registered voters in the state. She says to register to vote all that is required is "the last four digits of your social security or your drivers license."

"We enter it, and we check it against the motor vehicle system or social security, and it comes up with a match," Dicostanzo explained. As a result of post 2000 Federal election reforms the state now has a centralized, state wide, voter registration database. Dicostanzo said the system “is working out great." 

Any U.S. citizen, 18 years or older, who has lived in one of New Jersey at least 30 days prior to the election is eligible to register and cast a ballot. New Jersey also permits voting by mail and voters can sign up to automatically get their ballots mailed to them.

In New Jersey, prospective new voters have until October 16 to register. Voter registration forms are available on line and you can register to vote at your local town hall, county seat, a state agency satellite office or a DMV office.

And while some states are moving to purge their voting rolls more frequently Dicostanzo says New Jersey's bucking that trend, too. "Years ago when I first started out it was four years without casting a ballot and out. Now they allow it for two federal election so if you vote in only one election you could be on the rolls for another six, eight years."

Dicostanzo noted that both political parties and candidates are getting more aggressive with challenging voter registration lists, which are made public long before Election Day. "What they are doing is checking those lists. Now, I don't know how they are doing it. But they are talking more, and finding out like 'Patty's two children moved away a years ago but they are still on the rolls.' So they can send a signed letter in an ask us to investigate the residency of so and so and in turn, that's what we do,” she explained.

They can also challenge voters at the polls requiring them to show ID or a utility bill to prove residency and poll workers can accept it or reject it – meaning that a voter can be turned away.

And while some states are moving to purge their voting rolls more frequently Dicostanzo says New Jersey's bucking that trend, too. "Years ago when I first started out it was four years without casting  a ballot and out. Now they allow it for two federal election so if you vote in only one election you could be on the rolls for another six, eight years."

Tags:

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.

Sponsored