Sun Editorial: How do we get more people to show up at the polls?

Fewer than 39 percent of eligible voters showed up at the polls during the general election last November.

By Alan Bauer
The Sun

Last November’s general election was a record-setter — but not the kind of record one hopes to achieve. Fewer than 39 percent of eligible voters showed up at the polls, a record low turnout for a New Jersey gubernatorial election.

There could be several reasons many voters stayed home. Pre-election polls showed Phil Murphy would win the race for governor by a comfortable margin, and he did. Outside of the race for 8th District Assembly spots, there weren’t a lot of hotly contested races. And, of course, some people just refuse to vote for whatever reason.

Some folks in the Legislature think a few changes in voting laws could encourage more people to show up at the polls. One proposal would automatically register a person to vote when they applied for or renewed their driver’s license. Another would put registration online.

While there’s nothing wrong with these ideas, they simply could end up registering more people who won’t show up to vote.

So what would get people to the polls? There are a few things that might work.

How about turning Election Day into Election Week with polls open multiple days, including the weekend? Voting online is an option as well.

Bribery could work. Show up at the polls and receive a coupon to whatever company wants to sponsor the election. Or how about taking a page from your favorite restaurant and offer reservations? No more waiting in lines, if, by chance, a lot of people show up at the same time.

More information in the voting booth could provide details about candidates many people might not have heard of before Election Day.

We’re all for helping people get registered to vote. But getting them to actually show up to the polls should also be a priority.