InsiderNJ.com staff reports
Trenton, NJ – A diverse coalition of organizations sent a letter to Governor Murphy urging his administration to expand automatic voter registration (AVR) to Medicaid. Signed into law in 2018, AVR currently allows eligible voters to be automatically registered to vote or have their voting information updated when interacting with the Motor Vehicle Commission, unless they decline registration.
The legislation authorizes the Secretary of State to designate additional government agencies to implement AVR. New Jersey’s Medicaid program touches nearly 1.7 million individuals, many of whom do not have the same opportunities to register to vote through traditional channels.
Medicaid offices are well-suited for automatic voter registration because they currently collect and verify the information needed to register to vote. In addition, Medicaid offices have frequent contact with clients ensuring opportunities to keep voting information and rolls up to date.
“Automatic voter registration has proven to be secure, boost registration, clean up our rolls, and save money,” said Jesse Burns, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. “Expansion of AVR ensures that more eligible voters benefit from this commonsense reform and are able to participate in our democracy.”
“Automatic Voter registration linked to Medicaid will help ensure the most vulnerable residents of our state are registered to have their voices and the issues important to them heard in our elections,” said Renee Koubiadis, Executive Director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey.
“Building off of the success of Automatic Voter Registration through MVC, expanding the program to include other state agencies will expand access to the ballot box for New Jersey’s Black and Brown residents,” said Henal Patel, Director of the Democracy & Justice Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “Medicaid serves a population that does not always interact with MVC, particularly low income people. In New Jersey, because we have one of the highest racial wealth gaps in the country, this population is disproportionately Black and Latino. By expanding AVR, we can work toward all communities in New Jersey–including communities of color–having equal access to the ballot box.”
“People with disabilities often do not drive, so they are omitted from automatic voter registration at the Motor Vehicle Commission,” said Mary Ciccone, Director of Public Policy for Disability Rights New Jersey. “Utilizing Medicaid for automatic voter registration will empower more individuals to participate in the electoral process.”
“Democracy requires meaningful participation; expansion of AVR is a commonsense way to ensure all New Jerseyans can participate in the electoral process. In the face of nationwide efforts to suppress access to the polls, New Jersey must stand as a beacon in expanding access to the ballot box,” said Alexander Shalom, Senior Supervising Attorney, American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.
“We join our partners in strongly encouraging Governor Murphy to authorize the Secretary of State to designate Medicaid offices as additional automatic voter registration agencies,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director, New Jersey LCV. “As an environmental organization, we are keenly aware that low-income communities of color are impacted the most by environmental pollution and climate change. They are also the least likely to have access to easy voter registration. Families in environmental justice communities must have a say in what happens in their neighborhoods, and one way to do this is at the ballot box. Let’s make it as easy as possible for these residents to register and vote.”
“We know there are disproportionate burdens for low-income Americans, seniors, and individuals with disabilities by voter registration barriers. Expanding AVR in Medicaid offices will reduce the gaps in voter participation and provide a fundamental service in our democracy for our most vulnerable communities making sure their participation is included,” Uyen Khuong, Executive Director of ATNJ Education Fund.
Overall, New Jersey is establishing itself as a national leader in ensuring that eligible voters across the state have access to the ballot box. Since the implementation of automatic voter registration, the state has also signed laws allowing for online voter registration and restoring voting rights to people on parole and probation. Expanding automatic voter registration to additional agencies is a necessary next step to streamlining New Jersey’s elections and maximizing the number of participants in democracy.
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