TRENTON, NJ—Late Monday, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey and the NAACP New Jersey State Conference filed a motion to intervene in Trump v. Murphy, which challenges New Jersey’s plan to mail vote-by-mail ballots automatically to every registered New Jersey voter. The groups are represented by Campaign Legal Center, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, and DLA Piper.
“The governor’s order prioritizes public health without jeopardizing voting rights,” said Jesse Burns, executive director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. “This lawsuit is an attempt by outsiders to sow discord, undermine voters’ confidence, and disrupt safe voter access for New Jerseyans.”
Due to necessary pandemic-related changes and alterations around New Jersey elections this year, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey has invested significant time and resources informing voters of their options and requirements to vote this year. A change in the governor’s executive order is likely to create voter confusion that could keep voters from the polls. Most states have already begun to accept absentee and vote-by-mail ballot request applications, and a late change in New Jersey's election administration plan threatens to cause massive delays in ballot delivery.
“The majority of states have been administering elections by mail safely for many years. While voting by mail has recently become politicized, hundreds of thousands of Americans rely on voting by mail to participate in our elections every year,” said Dr. Deborah Turner, president of the board of directors of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “New Jersey’s order providing a mail-in ballot to every registered voter is the legitimate, safe, and equitable way to protect all voters and their access to the ballot this year.”
"The New Jersey NAACP is proud to intervene in this lawsuit in order to avoid further voter confusion and to protect the format of the 2020 General Election," said Richard Smith, President of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference. "As the Black community continues to be ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic it is paramount to ensure people are able to exercise their franchise and feel safe when doing so."
The League’s motion argues that the suit, in seeking to block the automatic mailing of vote-by-mail ballots, will require the group to invest substantial resources to re-educate voters right before an election, with no guarantee that voters will realize they now must apply for their vote-by-mail ballots in time to vote this November.
“Voters in New Jersey are relying on receiving their ballots automatically in the mail. Altering course at this time could prevent voters from being able to participate in the presidential election,” said Paul Smith, CLC’s Vice President, Litigation and Strategy. “Absentee voting is a safe and secure method of voting. The only people who can use an absentee ballot or vote by mail are voters who have verified their eligibility and identity with an election official. Because of COVID-19, it is important that anybody who is concerned about their health be able to vote by absentee ballot or vote-by-mail to encourage their participation and keep them safe.”
“As we are about to experience the most consequential election of our time in the midst of a pandemic, we must ensure that the voting process is as safe, easy and clear as possible. Changing New Jersey’s current plan mid-course would undermine all of those objectives – and would confuse and potentially disenfranchise voters who need to vote by mail and have already made plans to do so,” said Ryan P. Haygood, President & CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “As is true with all efforts to put voting barriers in place, undoing New Jersey’s current voting plan would disproportionately harm communities of color who are being ravaged by the pandemic, and make it harder for them to participate in our democracy at a time when they have so much at stake in participating in it and choosing leaders to represent their interests.”
“The NJ NAACP and LWVNJ seek to ensure that all registered voters are able to vote in November without fear for their health and well-being," said John Pendleton, Partner at DLA Piper. “This lawsuit is an attempt to suppress voter participation contrary to the fundamental principles of our democracy. We are confident that the Court will not stand for this blatant attempt to deny voters their constitutional rights.”
The case, Trump v. Murphy, is pending before Judge Michael A. Shipp in the District of New Jersey.