(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gabriela Mosquera, Tim Eustace, Matthew M. Milam, Daniel Benson, Wayne P. DeAngelo and John S. Wisniewski that would allow New Jersey residents to register online to vote was approved Thursday by the Assembly.
The bill (A-2870) allows New Jersey voters to securely register to vote online and authorizes the use of a voter’s digitized signature from the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission database to approve the online registration form.
“People today conduct most of their business online. Whether it’s shopping or maintaining our bank accounts online, the Internet has become integral in our daily routines,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Allowing people to register to vote online seems like an obvious transition.”
“People are busier than ever. Registering to vote may not be a priority when you’re juggling work, school and family life,” said Eustace (D-Bergen). “This bill gives folks with tight schedules the convenience of registering to vote from home or any place with a laptop and an Internet connection.”
“We are inundated with so much information on a daily basis that it can be easy to forget to register to vote until Election Day comes and it’s too late,” said Milam (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “Making the voting registration process more practical makes sense.”
The bill requires the Secretary of State to create an online voter registration form on the Department of State website that would allow a person qualified to vote in New Jersey to complete the form online and submit it to the appropriate county commissioner of registration for approval.
The bill requires the online voter registration form to include the same information contained on paper voter registration forms, and that the person completing the form provide all information and identification required by law in order to register to vote. The bill allows the use of the digitized signatures of drivers who authorize the use of that signature for voter registration purposes.
“Young people who just reached the voting age have grown up online,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “By making voter registration just a click away, we will better fit the needs of the next generation of voters.”
“If people can vote for their favorite contestant on a singing competition online, then they should at the very least be able to register to vote online,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Anything we can do to encourage residents to exercise their right to vote is a win in my book.”
“The average American spends 30 plus hours online a month. Surely a fraction of that can be used to register to vote online,” said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). “People already depend on the Internet to manage most of their affairs, so it’s sensible to add voter registration to the list.”
Under existing law, a person who is a citizen of the United States, is or will be 18 years of age at the time of the election, and has resided in the county where the person wishes to vote for at least 30 days prior to the election, may register to vote by completing a voter registration form at least 21 days before the election. The form requires the person who is registering to vote for the first time to provide either his or her driver’s license number, or the last four digits of his or her social security number, or any one of several approved identifying documents. The person must also sign the form.
Current law also authorizes the Secretary of State and the county commissioners of registration to match the information on completed voter registration forms, including social security numbers, to the information contained in the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission’s database, prior to entering the information from voter registration forms into the statewide voter registration database.
Under the bill, a person who provides a driver’s license number on the online voter registration form would be prompted to authorize the county commissioner of registration to utilize the person’s digitized signature currently available from the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission’s database.
If the signature can be located in the database, the bill authorizes the commissioner to accept the signature and approve the online voter registration record in the same manner as currently provided under existing law. If the signature cannot be located, the bill requires the commissioner to notify the person by mail of the steps necessary for completion of the online voter registration form, including the manner in which the person must provide a signature in order for the form to be completed.
Under the bill, when a person completing an online voter registration form does not provide a driver’s license number, or does not authorize the use of the digitized signature, he or she must print, sign and mail a one-page version of the completed form to the county commissioner of registration, and enclose any identifying documents that must be submitted under current law.
Whether the online voter registration form is approved through the use of the person’s digitized signature, or through the use of the one-page printed form signed by the person and submitted by regular mail, the bill requires that the online voter registration form must be designed in such a way that enables the county commissioner of registration, after reviewing and approving each form and any hard-copy documents received by mail in connection with each online form, to transfer the information on each approved online voter registration form into the statewide voter registration system in a manner that eliminates or significantly reduces the manual entry of that information into the system.
The bill was approved by a vote of 46-30-3 by the Assembly and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.