Gov. Christie on Thursday vetoed two bills that could have increased the ranks of New Jersey's voters, including a measure that would have automatically registered driver's license applicants.
The other bill would have allowed 17-year-olds to vote in primaries if they would be 18 by the time of the general election. Christie nixed that bill as "legally questionable."
The Republican governor had harsher words for the automatic registration bill, which would have required the Motor Vehicle Commission to register all applicants for driver's licenses, permits, other identification cards, or renewals to vote unless they opted out.
"This bill should be called 'the Voter Fraud Enhancement and Permission Act,' " Christie said in a veto message, asserting that the bill would "almost certainly register ineligible voters."
He also said language in the bill would "effectively absolve from punishment individuals who unlawfully vote."
The bill said a person who was not entitled to vote who became registered through a MVC application would not be guilty of fraudulently voting "unless the person willfully votes or attempts to vote knowing he is not entitled to vote."
The bill would have required a statement to be printed on license applications outlining requirements for voting in New Jersey, including being a U.S. citizen, living in the state and county for at least 30 days before the next election, and not being on parole or probation or serving a sentence for an indictable offense.
The required statement would have ended with text (in capital letters): "I understand that willfully voting or attempting to vote knowing that I am not entitled to vote may subject me to a fine of up $15,000, imprisonment up to five years, or both."
Christie's vetoes followed comments he made on voter fraud earlier this week, when he contended that backlash to voter ID laws had contributed to "some concern that the election system is not as fair as it should be."
The governor, a top backer of Donald Trump's, defended the GOP presidential candidate's comments that the U.S. election system was "rigged," telling reporters at a Statehouse news conference that "he's allowed to express his opinion."
In his veto Thursday of the automatic registration bill, Christie also argued that the measure was unnecessary, saying his administration had recently overhauled the MVC system to give every license applicant the opportunity to register to vote.
That process cost the state $1 million, while the bill would cost more money to implement and maintain, Christie said. The bill did not include a fiscal estimate from the Office of Legislative Services.
"The governor is flat-out wrong in both his refusal to sign the bill and his mischaracterization of what it would accomplish," Sen. Joseph F. Vitale (D., Middlesex), a sponsor, said in a statement. "The legislation would improve voter participation and prevent any of the phantom abuses the governor claims could happen."
Regarding the bill that would have permitted 17-year-olds to vote in primaries, Christie said any argument that the bill would allow for greater participation in a political party's decision-making process was flawed.
"When I left my polling place after the most recent primary, I was given a sticker that said, 'I voted,' not one that said, 'I participated in an internal political party process,' " he said.
Christie said that he signed a law last year that lets 17-year-olds register to vote if they will be 18 by the next election. The bill he vetoed would be inconsistent with that law, which Christie said requires that 17-year-olds be designated in the statewide registration system as temporarily ineligible to vote.