Last week the Rutgers Law School-Newark Constitutional Litigation Clinic filed a suit challenging New Jersey’s 21-day advance voter registration requirement. The suit claims that advanced registration is an obsolete and undue burden on the constitutional right to vote, particularly with the rise of modern technology and New Jersey’s Statewide Voter Registration System.
Plaintiffs include the Rutgers University Student Assembly, the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey, the New Jersey ACLU, New Jersey Citizen Action, and individuals who lost their right to vote in recent elections because their registrations were not properly processed in time for Election Day. The suit was filed in Middlesex County because several students at Rutgers’ New Brunswick campus couldn’t register on time or had their votes thrown out in recent elections.
Making elections more accessible leads to increased voter turnout: “On average, states that allow same-day registration get 8 percent more turnout.” The top two turnout states in 2010–Maine and Minnesota–both permit Election Day Registration. In addition to the convenience factor, the groups also have concerns about voting by provisional ballot, claiming that around 25% of provisional ballots cast in 2008 ended up being disqualified.
A similar lawsuit in Connecticut was recently dismissed by a judge because the state’s electronic voter registration database was unable to handle same-day registrations. If the case is successful, New Jersey would become the first state to implement Election Day registration through the courts, rather than legislation.