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Guest Opinion: New Jersey’s Bold Voting Rights Stance

 - by Aron Solomon 

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One week ago, in New Jersey, on the same day Georgia enacted a new law to restrict voting, New Jersey did the opposite. 

As announced by Democratic Governor, Phil Murphy, New Jersey now requires all counties in the state to hold nine days of early, in-person machine voting ending the Sunday before Election Day in November. Yet there are fewer days of in-person voting for primaries, with only three for a non-presidential primary and five in any presidential election year.

The governor’s announcement was made over Zoom, which itself over the past year has become our national digital town hall, a representation of technological democracy: easily accessible, free for most practical uses, and as inclusive as communications technology can be. 

It is clear that Murphy has adopted this position as part of his re-election platform. While he may be swimming against a national current, his stance is playing well at home, where the false GOP narrative of a stolen presidential election has comparatively little traction. 

The press conference in which Governor Murphy announced the new state voting rights was in sharp contrast to the announcements in Georgia, which essentially do the opposite. The importance of this moment was amplified by the fact that Stacey Abrams, who has been one of the nation’s driving democratic political forces over the past three years, appeared at Governor Murphy’s side during the announcement. 

Adriana Gonzalez, a Florida lawyer and partner at Gonzalez & Cartwright, P.A., argues that rather than being an outlier in 2021, New Jersey’s new law is fundamentally democratic and needs to be adopted nationwide:

“Democracy means that all voices are included and all voices are heard. Truly inclusive voting doesn’t seek to restrict the right of people to vote, but expands how and where they can vote. This is fundamentally fair and where the entire nation needs to be heading.”

While greater access to voting is an inherently democratic notion, we are in the midst of a red wave of restrictive and expansive election legislation under consideration in at least 43 states. With both Georgia and Iowa passing major voting restrictions. Arizona, Florida, and Texas are currently advancing their own sets of restrictive laws in their state legislatures. 

Where we are today is a place where the actions of these individual states are leading us to some major court challenges over the next 2 to 3 years. It is easy to move partisan legislation through the state legislatures, as was the case this week in New Jersey, where both branches of the legislature are controlled by Governor Murphy’s Democrats. 

But what will prove a significantly greater challenge is when legislative partisanship meets the rigor of what will surely be forthcoming landmark voting rights challenges in the courts. There have simply been too many seismic shifts in how Americans are allowed to vote - from voting rights challenges to remarkable cases of creative gerrymandering - for this not to be soon ripe for deep and broad judicial review.

Looked at through that lens, these partisan state efforts to both restrict and expand voting rights are necessary fuel for the judicial tank. It is probably a very good thing that the cases will come to federal courts from both sides of our deeply divided political spectrum as we seek some kind of national equilibrium on these questions critical to democracy and the processes that practically enable or restrict it. 

In fact, within hours of the Georgia announcement that restricts voting rights and even limits the ability of voters to drink water or consume food on voting lines, lawyer Mark E. Elias brought a lawsuit on behalf of the the New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter Fund and Rise challenging several provisions of a Georgia voter suppression bill.

It is an interesting side note that both extremes along the political spectrum or calling legislation that either dramatically expands or restricts voting rights as “common sense legislation.” It will ultimately be up to the courts to determine what legislation is fair, and then up to people who vote in elections to determine what kind of representation in their state and nation is truly common sense for the years ahead. 

About Aron Solomon

Aron Solomon is the Head of Digital Strategy for NextLevel.com and an adjunct professor of business management at the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University.

 

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