Washington, DC - The Justice Department announced Thursday that it has entered into a proposed consent decree to settle a voting rights lawsuit with the State of New Jersey and state officials.
The Justice Department’s lawsuit, brought under Section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), challenges the failure of disability transportation programs in the State of New Jersey - including NJ Transit Access Link and county-based Community Transportation programs - to provide voter registration opportunities to their customers.
The proposed consent decree was filed in federal court in conjunction with a lawsuit brought by the Justice Department. The department’s complaint alleges that the State of New Jersey failed to designate offices in the State that provide paratransit and other state-funded disability transportation services as voter registration agencies. Under the NVRA, these offices must distribute a voter registration application to each person who applies for their services, and along with each recertification, renewal or change of address form relating to such services, unless the person involved declines in writing to register to vote. They must also assist applicants in completing voter registration applications, and they must accept completed voter registration applications for transmittal to appropriate state election officials. However, NJ Transit Access Link and Community Transportation programs have not been providing the voter registration opportunities guaranteed by the NVRA.
“Part of our ongoing effort to ensure access to the ballot includes ensuring that social service and disability agencies are providing registration opportunities as required under federal law,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The National Voter Registration Act is a vital tool to ensure that citizens with disabilities have convenient and accessible opportunities to register to vote. It is critical that all citizens have unfettered access to voter registration opportunities. I am pleased that the State of New Jersey has worked with the Department of Justice to help ensure that citizens with disabilities will have broad access to the voter registration opportunities that federal law guarantees.”
“The right to vote is a constitutional principle that forms a cornerstone of our democracy,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig for the District of New Jersey. “The National Voter Registration Act enhances citizens’ access to that democratic process by increasing voter registration opportunities. We appreciate that the State of New Jersey has worked with us to ensure that all New Jersey residents, including those with disabilities, enjoy convenient opportunities to register to vote.”
The department gave notice to the State of New Jersey of its intent to bring suit under the National Voter Registration Act on March 11, 2021, and the parties worked collaboratively to achieve this agreement. Under the parties’ consent decree - and subject to approval by the federal district court in New Jersey - New Jersey will designate NJ Transit Access Link and Community Transportation as voter registration agencies. New Jersey will also conduct robust implementation and oversight efforts and will afford supplemental voter registration opportunities to existing Access Link clients.