Since entering the legislature in 2016, Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker has put much of his focus into election reforms.
Zwicker reintroduced bills creating a ranked-choice voting system and allowing 17-year-olds who would be of voting age by the general election to vote in primaries this month.
“I’m a certainly a numbers guy, a data person, and what we’re seeing in New Jersey and around the country is a disillusionment by people who feel that their voice and their vote just doesn’t matter, whether that’s from special interests and money or whether it is our whole election process,” Zwicker said. So coming into the legislature, I felt like this was a critical, critical issue.”
Over the last year alone, Zwicker has spearheaded a series of electoral reforms, including ones creating donor disclosure requirements for 501(c)(4) non-profits, overhauling the state’s vote-by-mail system and allowing voters to register online.
The assemblyman was the prime sponsor and lead advocate of the disclosure and mail-in ballot bills. He co-sponsored the registration measure.
Some of those bills have faced their share of legal troubles after being approved.
The original vote-by-mail reform law, for example, was tossed by the Council on Local Mandates over a lack of funding, though a new version that included $3 million in funding and required the legislature to appropriate money to it annually was signed into law this month.
The courts have frozen dark money bill over lawsuits from either end of the political spectrum that claim it infringes on free speech.
Legislative leaders have joined the state in defending the law, claiming that Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration was dragging its feet on the matter.
“That’s not going away,” Zwicker said. “The court will make a decision and we’ll see what we need to do.”
The dark money bill was a point of contention for Trenton’s top Democrats for much of last year.
Murphy signed the bill under the threat of a veto override believing that lawmakers would later pass a cleanup bill to remove portions to which Murphy objected.
Among those provisions was one widely viewed as targeting Essex County Freeholder Director Brendan Gill, who helps run a Murphy-aligned non-profit.
“Dark money really consumed a lot of time last year, so I held off, but now I’d like to see if we can get this done this year,” Zwicker said, referring to the ranked-choice bill.
He said that while he’s only just begun pushing for the bill to be heard in committee, it’s passage is a top priority.