Senate President Nicholas Scutari is hindering same-day voter registration

As of 2022, 23 states and Washington, D.C., have implemented same-day voter registration, which allows any qualified resident of the state to register and cast a ballot at the same time.

Of those states, 21 and Washington, D.C., offer Election Day registration, which means voters can both register and vote on Election Day.

Montana and North Carolina make same-day registration possible for a part of the early voting period, but not on Election Day.

Approval of same-day voter registration in New Jersey has been in limbo because of opposition from state Senate President Nicholas Scutari.

Advocates have called for the state to adopt same-day registration, but that push has met resistance from Scutari, who is also the party boss in Union County, where government officials and the political establishment are largely insulated from the voters.

More than 90 advocacy groups including the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and the League of Women Voters of New Jersey wrote to Gov. Phil Murphy, Scutari and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin for a second time on March 18, 2022, urging them to pass pending legislation (A1966/S247) to establish same-day voter registration in New Jersey, including on Election Day. 

“In the year that has passed, we have seen democracy come under attack both across the country and around the world. State after state has passed laws restricting the right to vote – most often impacting Black and other voters of color. It is crucial for New Jersey to step up as a leader in democracy,” said the letter.

“The bill, with the amendments, uses existing infrastructure and will have minimal – if any – costs,” continued the letter. “We should make it as easy as possible for people to vote, even when it’s a burden to the government. However, when there is no burden there is no excuse not to expand voting rights.”

In a time where state after state has passed laws restricting the right to vote, campaign advocates argue that it’s crucial for New Jersey, which currently has an arbitrary three-week registration deadline, to step up as a leader and join the 20 other states and D.C. that already have same-day registration.

The advocates say recent amendments to the legislation would simplify the process and address concerns raised by Scutari, but critics say his real objection is that it might subject his corrupt political operation to accountability.

Proof of residency is a key requirement in all states that offer same-day registration.

Traditionally, election officials have time to send a non-forwardable mailing to the prospective voter in order to verify the voter’s residence before processing the registration application.

Because that isn’t possible with same-day registration, the prospective voter must present proof of residency at the time of registration or soon after registering.

A current driver’s license or ID card will suffice in all states.

In some states, documents such as a paycheck or utility bill with an address are acceptable for proving residence. A few states also permit an already-registered voter to vouch for the residency of an Election Day registrant.

There is strong evidence that same-day and Election Day registration increases voter turnout, but the extent of the impact is difficult to conclude.

Same-day registration has been shown to increase turnout for Black and Latina/Latino voters, and in particular young people. It will also cost the state little – if anything – since it uses the already-existing provisional ballot system.

Immediately following the implementation of same-day registration, states usually see a boost in voter numbers and also tend to outperform other states in terms of turnout percentages.

Multiple studies place the effect between an increase of 3 percent to 7 percent, with an average of a 5 percent increase.

While Democrats typically support it and Republicans oppose the process, studies reveal no conclusive evidence of whether same-day registration shapes partisan outcomes or whether certain populations are more likely to benefit.  

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