Coughlin, Schaer, Eustace & Downey Bill Creating Automatic Voter Registration through MVC Advances

(TRENTON) – Legislation (A-1944) sponsored by Assembly Democrats Craig Coughlin, Gary Schaer, Tim Eustace and Joann Downey that would require the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) to automatically register or update a person’s voter registration as part of the process of applying for or renewing a driver’s license advanced in the Senate on Thursday.

“This bill is designed to encourage participation in the democratic process by integrating voter registration with the process of driver registration,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “This simple move will hopefully encourage more young people to register to vote and make it easier for residents to fulfill their civic duty.”

“Sometimes voter turnout can be stymied simply by the fact that would-be voters have forgotten to update their registration because they moved,” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Hopefully this will encourage first time drivers to engage in the voting process and also make it easier for others to ensure that their voter registration stays current.”

“Given the increasingly low voter turnouts we see regularly nowadays, this bill will hopefully help boost voter registration and encourage participation in the democratic process by making it easier for folks to register,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic).

“Youth turnout in elections has been at an historic low in recent years,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “By making it easier for them to register, hopefully we can create a more conscientious mindset towards voting amongst our youngest generation.”

Under current law, each applicant for a driver’s license is offered an opportunity by the MVC to simultaneously register to vote. The bill provides that the MVC would automatically register to vote any person who applies for a special learner’s permit, an examination permit, a probationary driver’s license, a basic driver’s license, or a non-driver identification card, or for renewal of any license or identification card, according to the permanent address provided by the applicant, unless the applicant specifically declines the automatic voter registration.

The chief administrator of the MVC would forward the personal information required to register to vote in an electronic format to the Division of Elections in the Department of State. Submission of an application would serve as consent to be registered to vote at the permanent address provided by the applicant, unless the applicant specifically declines the automatic registration.

Additionally, the chief administrator would provide for a statement to be printed on the application for a special learner’s permit, an examination permit, a provisional driver’s license, a basic driver’s license, or a non-driver identification card that will include a disclaimer for residents who are ineligible to vote and for domestic violence victims allowing them to opt-out of registering to vote through the MVC.

The bill was approved by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee. It cleared the full Assembly on May 26.