New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed two bills on Thursday that would have made it easier for state residents to cast a ballot, including one that would have automatically registered voters when they get or renew a driver’s license.
“This bill should be called ‘the Voter Fraud Enhancement and Permission Act,’” he said in his veto message.
Also on Thursday, Christie vetoed a bill that would have allowed 17-year-old New Jersey residents to vote in primaries if they turn 18 by the time of the general election. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia currently allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries in order to increase political engagement.
“This bill should be called ‘the Voter Fraud Enhancement and Permission Act.’”
But Christie called the bill “legally questionable” and said it would impede the democratic process.
“When I left my polling place after the most recent primary, I was given a sticker that said, ‘I voted,’ not one that said, ‘I participated in an internal political party process,’” he said.
Both pieces of legislation would have improved ballot access in New Jersey, a state that is currently ranked 39th in the country in terms of both the percentage of eligible voters who are registered and the percentage of voters who actually cast a ballot.
The automatic registration bill would have added to the voter rolls any eligible citizens who visit a Motor Vehicle Commission office for a new or renewed license, unless they opt out. It would have made New Jersey the sixth state to authorize automatic voter registration. Currently, California, Connecticut, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia automatically register eligible voters at the DMV, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which calls the process the “gold standard of modernized registration.”
It’s not the first time Christie has vetoed legislation to bring automatic registration to New Jersey. In November, after sitting on the bill for almost five months, he vetoed the “Democracy Act,” which would have taken a number of steps to improve voter access, including requiring the translation of ballots into multiple languages.
Analilia Mejia, the director of New Jersey Working Families, which spearheaded the initiative to get lawmakers to introduce that legislation, told ThinkProgress last year that the Democracy Act would have improved New Jersey’s abysmal voter participation ranking.
“It’s just mind-bending that a governor of a state would be against every single one of his citizens having full ease and access to participate in the voting process,” she said.
Christie repeatedly cites the potential for voter fraud as his main reason for rejecting this type of legislation. But voter fraud is exceedingly rare, and this year’s bill would have required driver’s license applications to include a disclaimer in all capital letters reading: “I understand that willfully voting or attempting to vote knowing that I am not entitled to vote may subject me to a fine of up $15,000, imprisonment up to five years, or both.”
Christie has been supportive of Trump’s claim that the November election will be “rigged.” He also said earlier this week that the repeal of voter ID laws across the country brings “some concern that the election system is not as fair as it should be.”