In this summary proceeding, the plaintiff applies for an order permitting her to register to vote in a manner precluding public disclosure of her residential address. Notice of this application was given to the defendant; the court has been advised by the Attorney General on behalf of the defendant that it neither supports nor opposes the application.
The question presented is whether it is permissible for the plaintiff to register to vote without making her address a matter of public record in light of the provisions of N.J.S.A. 19:31-18.1 which require that the registry list, including registrants' addresses, be publicly available. This issue has not heretofore been addressed by any court of our State. I hold that under the circumstances of this case, plaintiff should be permitted to register to vote without having her residential address made a matter of public record.
Plaintiff is a citizen of the United States over the age of 18 and a resident of Monmouth County. She was lawfully registered to vote from a previous address in Monmouth County and did in fact vote in several elections. In the spring of 1991 it was necessary that she move to her current address because her ex-husband repeatedly violated a permanent restraining order issued in September, 1988 pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. As a result of such violations she suffers permanent physical injuries. Due to her fear that there will be further attacks by her ex-husband, plaintiff now seeks to keep her current place of residence confidential.
In 1991, plaintiff attempted to register to vote in Monmouth County using her post office box as her address. She offered to disclose her actual address to the defendant if it would be kept confidential. She was informed by the defendant that her registration information, including her address, would not be exempt from public access and disclosure.
Again on October 1, 1992, she attempted to register to vote in time for the November 3, 1992 election. Her application to register included only her post office box as her address. She was then advised that her registration was deficient because of the absence of her residential address. She was further advised that she would not be able to register to vote in the upcoming election absent a court order.
Plaintiff argues that she is eligible to vote under the provisions of the New Jersey Constitution, and that the Constitution supercedes inconsistent statutes regarding voter registration. Furthermore, she contends that the broad purpose of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 should permit her to exercise her constitutional right to vote without her residential address becoming a matter of public record.
Article II, para. 3(a) of the New Jersey Constitution of 1947 describes qualifications for voting. The right is accorded to each citizen of the United States of the age of 18 years or older "who shall have been a resident of the state and of the county in which he claims to vote thirty days, next before the election. . . ."
In order to be entitled to vote, one must be permanently registered pursuant to N.J.S.A. 19:31-1.1. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 19:31-3(b)(2), a person entitled to vote must complete a permanent registration form which contains information concerning the place of residence and street address of the applicant; the commissioner of registration (who is also the superintendent of elections) is required to procure information necessary to determine the exact place of residence of the registrant.
N.J.A.C. 15:10-1.5(c)(2) renders a registration with a post office box invalid if the street address is not also supplied.
The commissioner is required to certify and transmit to the county clerk a complete list of all persons registered in each election district of each municipality in the county. N.J.S.A. 19:31-18. The county clerk is required to print the list of persons registered in each election district and furnish it to any voter who may apply for a copy. N.J.S.A. 19:31-18.1. As a ...