Low turnout shows need for N.J. voting regulation overhaul
And don't even ask about Christie's record on women's health.
But his recent veto of a comprehensive voting-rights bill – a bill robustly supported by both parties in Trenton, as well as by the state's residents – takes political expediency to a whole new level.
In an expected but still disappointing move, the Republican governor said no to the N.J. Democracy Act, which would have made voting easier through a series of reforms, including automatic registration for eligible voters applying for driver's licenses.
The package would have allowed in-person early voting in every county and made it easier for the men and women in the armed services to vote while overseas.
Making voting easier for residents of his state is clearly not a priority for Christie, and why should it be? He rode to re-election in 2013 with the lowest turnout in state history for a gubernatorial race.
That miserable showing was echoed last month, when a sorry 21 percent of registered voters showed up at the polls for statewide elections.
Representative government suffers a body blow in the absence of participation. The reforms the governor swept under the rug would have resulted in a more robust democracy.
Christie's rationale that the bill would have opened the door to so-called voter fraud doesn't hold water. If anything, online registration has the potential to produce more accurate and up-to-date voter lists, permitting increased vigilance and monitoring.
So where do we go from here? There's talk of turning the matter over to the people who matter most – New Jersey residents – in the form of a referendum.
Even before the veto, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said he was open to asking voters to amend the state Constitution to implement the proposed changes.
And the advocacy group New Jersey Working Families is pushing to put the act on the 2016 ballot – a savvy move, since the presidential race at the top of the ballot is a proven draw.
Whatever direction this takes, expanding voter rights - as lawmakers in 23 states and Washington D.C. have done in recent years - must remain high on the Legislature's agenda, even if it doesn't suit Chris Christie's political aspirations.