New Jersey Governor Sign Early-Voting Legislation Tomorrow

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New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation requiring local polling districts to offer in-person early voting.

Murphy, a first-term Democrat who is running for a second term in November, was joined virtually at the bill-signing by Georgia voting-rights activist Stacey Abrams.

The move comes as Republican state lawmakers across the country seek to restrict ballot access in the wake of Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory and former President Donald Trump’s false allegations of widespread fraud.

“Our democracy wins when we open the doors of our polling places wide instead of slamming them shut,” Murphy said during a Zoom appearance.

Lawmakers in 43 states as of Feb. 19 have carried over, pre-filed or introduced 704 bills that would expand voting, according to the New York-based Brennan Center, a nonpartisan law and policy institute. The center also found 253 bills that would restrict voting, including purging rolls, requiring identification, disenfranchising those with criminal records and limiting absentee balloting.

Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, signed a law on March 25 that reins in absentee voting and makes it a crime to give food or water to voters waiting in lines. Activists have called for boycotts of The Coca-Cola Co. and Delta Air Lines Inc., both based in Georgia, and for Major League Baseball and the PGA to pull events from the state.

“When democracy is undermined by laws that we have seen passed not only in Georgia, but in Iowa, and laws that are under consideration in Arizona, in Texas, in New Hampshire, in Florida -- in 43 states across this country, we are seeing an onslaught, an attack on democracy,” Abrams said.

Nine Days

On the same day Georgia’s law was enacted, New Jersey’s Democratic-controlled legislature sent Murphy a bill that would require each county to open as many as seven polling places for nine days prior to general elections. The law, designed to ease voting for people who have to work or care for children on Election Day, will apply to the 2021 general election, when the governor’s office and all 120 legislative seats are open. Previously, only absentee ballots were allowed early.

In New Jersey, 72% of eligible voters turned out in the November presidential election, according to state data. Nationally the figure was 66%, according to the Washington-based Pew Research Center. It’s more typical for about 60% of U.S. voters to participate in a general election.

Some lawmakers in New Jersey have introduced bills to restrict voting rights, Murphy said.

“Let me be perfectly clear: these bills will go nowhere except into the nearest recycling can,” he said.

Abrams, the former minority leader of Georgia’s General Assembly, founded Fair Fight, a voting-rights group, after she lost the 2018 election to Kemp. Her activism is credited with helping to defeat Georgia’s two Republican U.S. senators and flipping the seats, leading to her party’s control of the Senate and House for the first time since 2011.

“We are always, always as a nation stronger when every voice is included,” Abrams said on the call.

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