New Jersey expands early voting as GOP-controlled states suppress the vote

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For the first time ever, New Jersey will now have a week of early in-person voting.

New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday plans to sign a bill into law that will create an early in-person voting period, the New York Times reported — a move that will give voters in the Garden State more time to cast their ballots.

The state Legislature passed the legislation last week, which allows voters to cast ballots in-person up to 10 days before an election, the Star-Ledger reported.

The New York Times reported that Murphy will sign the bill into law in a ceremony that will include Stacey Abrams — the former Georgia state representative who has been fighting against the voter suppression law Republicans in her home state passed last week.

New Jersey's creation of an early in-person voting period marks an expansion of voting rights, bucking the trend of GOP-run states that are working to pass laws making it harder to vote.

To date, Republican state legislators across the country have introduced more than 250 bills that seek to restrict access to the ballot box. Many of them targeting absentee voting, a method Donald Trump has partly blamed for his 2020 loss to President Joe Biden.

Voting by mail, however, is highly rare, and the method did not lead to Trump's defeat — with Trump's own former attorney general saying fraud did not cause Trump's loss.

In fact, the New Jersey bill passed the same day Georgia's GOP-controlled state Legislature passed a bill that requires ID to vote by mail, limits the use of ballot drop boxes, and even makes it a crime to hand out food and drink to voters waiting in line to cast their ballot.

After Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed the legislation into law, civil rights groups in the Peach State filed a lawsuit challenging it in federal court.

"On the same day New Jersey protected our elections by passing my early voting law, Georgia instituted a new Jim Crow," New Jersey state Sen. Nia H. Gill, who was a co-sponsor of the early voting legislation, tweeted.

"Congress must take action and pass the For The People Act, to protect democracy across all 50 states," Gill added, a reference to H.R. 1, the pro-democracy bill House Democrats passed earlier this month that requires states to have early voting periods and automatic voter registration, allows everyone who wants to vote by mail to do so in federal elections, and limits the use of voter ID laws, among other things.

Senate Democrats are working to pass their own version of H.R. 1; however, Republicans have vowed to use the filibuster to block the bill — leading voting rights activists to call for the elimination of the arcane procedure.

Ultimately, civil rights groups in New Jersey praised the Legislature's moves to make it easier to vote.

"All eligible voters who want to cast a vote and participate in our elections should be able to do so," the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted after the early voting legislation passed. "Many thanks to the NJ Legislature, @NJ_ISJ [the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice], @LWVNJ [the League of Women Voters New Jersey chapter], and partners for bringing New Jersey a step closer to that vision of democracy and working to pass these critical bills."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.