This article was updated with comment from the Ciattarelli campaign at 7:04 p.m.
A swath of Democratic urban mayors attacked Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli over his election reform platform Tuesday, charging it was in lock-step with Republican efforts to limit voting elsewhere in the country.
“As elected leaders representing diverse communities across New Jersey, we strongly reject the shameful proposals that have been championed by Republican gubernatorial candidate Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli and members of the Legislature to impose discriminatory voter ID requirements and to purge New Jerseyans from voter rolls,” the 24 mayors said in a joint statement.
In August, Ciattarelli proposed a four-point election reform plan that included voter ID, polling machine uniformity across counties, voter purges unpegged from federal election cycles and early in-person voting.
His plan called for photographic voter IDs to be made available to all residents at no cost and also required voters to certify their identity to election officials before receiving a mail-in ballot.
The mayors — including Brian Stack of Union City, Ras Baraka of Newark, Steve Fulop of Jersey City, Andre Sayegh of Paterson, Christian Bollwage of Elizabeth, Marty Small of Atlantic City, Reed Gusciora of Trenton, Michael Wildes of Englewood and more than a dozen others — claimed Ciattarelli’s proposal was a plan to disenfranchise their residents.
“The fight to secure voting rights and end voter suppression directly impacts members of our communities, many of whom are people of color, who’ve long been the target of voting restrictions under the guise of election integrity,” they said. “These are people who fully participate in and make our communities stronger, and yet we’re witnessing a concerted effort to prevent them from having a voice in shaping the direction of their future.”
The jab over the Republicans’ voting plan is all optics. Ciattarelli isn’t New Jersey’s governor, and the candidate’s plan would likely meet a swift death in the state’s Democrat-controlled legislature.
But the timing is fortuitous for Democrats. Earlier Tuesday, Murphy signed a bill allowing early in-person voting. The signing ceremony, attended by Democratic voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams, coincided with Republican legislatures in other states advancing new voting restrictions.
“While Republicans like Assemblyman Ciattarelli want to drag our state back, Governor Murphy has been steadfastly committed to a whole-of-government approach that expands democracy and removes barriers to the ballot box, enacting automatic voter registration, in-person early voting, and restoring the voting rights of those on probation and parole, among other important measures,” the mayors said.
In response, the former assemblyman’s campaign criticized the governor for his administration’s decision to not send mail-in ballots to 428,556 inactive voters, meaning ones who had not cast a ballot in any election for two consecutive federal cycles, and questioned why the mayors took no issue with the state’s online registration system, which requires prospective voters have a driver’s license or state-issued ID.
“Jack’s sole focus is to make sure as many people as possible are voting and to improve New Jersey’s system in a bipartisan way,” Ciattarelli Communications Director Stami Williams said. “Sadly, instead of working across the aisle to make elections more free and fair, it seems some Democrats are intent on scoring political points instead of finding solutions and common ground.”
Mayors Ravi Bhalla or Hoboken, Hector Lora of Passaic, Tiffani Worthy of Willingboro, Gabriel Rodriguez of West New York, Jimmy Davis of Bayonne, Michael Santiago of Millville, Raymond Giacobe of Rahway, Derek Armstead of Linden, Donald Shaw of Roselle, Adrian Mapp of Plainfield, Albert Kelly of Bridgeton, Tony Vauss of Irvington, Phil Kramer of Franklin Township, John Labrosse of Hackensack, Dwayne Warren of Orange and Ted Green of East Orange also signed onto the statement.
An earlier version of this story inadvertently misspelled Bridgeton.