The Republican campaign to repress the votes of the American people was put on full display Monday morning, when Republican presidential candidate and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed the Democracy Now bill, preventing his state from adopting automatic voter registration and preventing 1.6 million of his constituents to be added to the voter rolls.
The second voting rights bill he’s vetoed in three years, Christie offered up the same old Republican nonsense about “voter fraud,” which has been shown time and time again to be a nonexistent non-issue that is used to perpetrate the disenfranchisement of the electorate by opportunistic conservatives. The bill would also have banned politicians from embarking on costly special elections, like the one Chris Christie held in 2013 for a Senate seat that ended up costing taxpayers $12 million – a colossal waste that let Christie justify spending cuts, like $6 million slashed from medical day care services, $2 million from Work First NJ child care, and $2.2 million from nursing care for the elderly.
New Jersey is the 39th state in terms of the percentage of eligible voters who are registered and percentage of voters who actually cast a ballot. Analilia Mejia, the director of New Jersey Working Families, roundly slammed the governor for his refusal to pass the bill. “Most of these things have been moved and adopted in other states successfully,” she said. “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.”
Voting, our primary vehicle of political expression, should be a sacred right in this country. We need more people like Bernie Sanders, who recently called for universal automatic voter registration, to make the rules. Sanders had some harsh words for those who threaten our voter rights: “It has never occurred to me as a candidate to figure out a way to deny the vote to people because they might vote against me. People who do that are political cowards. They’re afraid of a fair election.” The Republican push to keep people from voting is a disgusting affront to our proud democratic tradition and the very integrity of our nation, and we must remain vigilant to ensure our freedoms remain unconstrained.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.