New Jersey Enacts OVR

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Yesterday, New Jersey became the latest state to permit online voter registration with the enactment of a new bill that will offer voters the option to register online beginning this summer. NJ.com has more:

Looking to register to vote in New Jersey? You will soon be able to do it online under a bill Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law Tuesday.

The new law (S589) requires the Garden State’s secretary of state to create and maintain a secure website to allow eligible voters to register to vote using an online form.

It takes effect in June.

It’s the latest move Murphy and his fellow Democrats who control the state Legislature have made to open up voting in New Jersey. They have also expanding mail-in voting, made voter registration automatic when you apply for a driver’s license, and restored voting rights to people on probation and parole.

New Jersey now joins 37 other states and the District of Columbia in offering OVR, which proponents say will not only expand access to voting but also make it more environmentally-friendly:

New Jersey is the 38th state to institute online voter registration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The District of Columbia also has it and Oklahoma is phasing in a similar program.

“We are stronger and fairer when more New Jerseyans are represented in our democracy,” Murphy said in a statement. “Expanding access to voting is one of many ways we can work to enfranchise more voters and ensure that all eligible voters are able to participate in the democratic process.”

Proponents say online registration is needed because the internet has become so essential to daily lives and allows residents to exercise their voting rights more easily.

The Democratic-sponsored bill passed both houses of the Democratic-controlled Legislature earlier this month — 27-10 in the state Senate and 61-14, with 2 abstentions, in the state Assembly.

“It will not only make it easier for residents to register but it will be more environmentally friendly and save the state money over the cost of the paper system,” said state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, a sponsor of the measure.

The new system, like many others nationwide, will rely on other state data to assess eligibility to vote:

Under the law, New Jersey’s Secretary of State will match registrants’ driver’s license number or their non-driver ID card along with other information like their birthdays and Social Security numbers, and then assess their eligibility to register to vote.

The secretary of state will determine the deadline to register online before each election, as well.

The nonpartisan state Office of Legislative Services estimates the system’s creation will cost taxpayers $350,000 and that there will likely annual costs associated with maintaining, securing, and advertising the system.

As with any other major change to election administration, it’s worth keeping an eye on implementation – especially in an already-busy election year like 2020. Still, enactment of OVR is a huge step forward for the Garden State and a big story for voters and election officials now and in the years to come. Stay tuned …

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