Virginia and New Jersey has joined other Democratic-led states to pass new laws to expand voting access. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 843 bills expanding voting access have been introduced in 47 states.
“Your access to the ballot depends a lot on where you live,” Jon Greenbaum, Chief Counsel of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said. “And the divide is growing.”
The bill comes as Republican lawmakers seek to restrict voting access. Last week, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a restrictive voting bill. New Jersey Assemblyman, Andrew Zwicker, is hopeful about the new New Jersey election laws.
“What an ironic moment,” Zwicker said. “While New Jersey is doing one thing, Georgia is doing the exact opposite.”
New Jersey’s legislation requires all counties to open three to seven polling places for voting — there are nine days of early in-person voting. There will be fewer days of early voting before primaries. The bill also calls for more drop boxes for vote-by-mail ballots.
“Our accountability over government, opportunities to better our lives and the chance to elect our representatives all depend upon our ability to access the ballot,” Senator Nia Gill said.
“Across our nation, there is a concerted effort to limit access to the ballot box among eligible voters,” Phillip D. Murphy, New Jersey Governor, said. “Those efforts are un-American and fly in the face of the principles that generations of Americans, from soldiers to civil rights activists, have fought for and in many cases given their lives to defend.”
Republican state Senators Kristin M. Corrado and Declan O’Scanlon voted against the bill.
“I hope we’re not setting everyone up for failure, but we’re just not there,” the senator said. “We don’t have the machines. We don’t have the poll books. We don’t have the workers.”
“Like many things we do in Trenton, we’re doing it incompletely,” O’Scanlon said. “It’s impossible to do it instantly, yet we make no allowance in the bill for any delay.”
Henal Patel believes that the bill will encourage more nonwhite churchgoers to participate in “souls to the polls.”
“Early in-person voting encourages participation by more people, increases satisfaction, and results in shorter lines on Election Day,” Patel said.
The “souls to the polls” is a nationwide tradition where churchgoers cast ballots.
“We applaud the Legislature’s commitment to removing obstacles to the ballot in recognition of the simple truth that our democracy is better when all voices can participate,” Jesse Burns, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, said.