As expected, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed an early voting bill this month, and Democratic supporters of the measure have no one but themselves to blame.
While the bill sent to Christie was well-intentioned, it would have added needless expense to the voting process. It would have given voters 15 days to cast their ballots in person. Depending on their size, counties would have had to designate from three to seven polling places that would be open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.
In its first year, the measure could have increased voting costs by $22 million.
Christie was right to send this one back to the drawing board, but that doesn't mean proponents should give up. Democrats should return to the governor a more realistic bill that accomplishes the same goal - broadening access to voting - but without some of the costly overkill in the original legislation.
Hurricane Sandy, which hit the state just a week before Election Day last year, showed the value of a workable system for early voting. In spite of emergency voting provisions enacted on the fly by Christie - including voting by fax and email - New Jersey experienced one of the lowest turnouts ever for a presidential election.
Opponents of the early voting bill have argued that New Jersey already offers no-questions-asked voting by mail. But mail-in ballots, which can be picked up by third parties, have a history of abuse in Atlantic County elections. The state needs a more secure system for early voting.
Unfortunately, the conditions put forward by the Democrats' bill went too far. It's one thing to try to make voting fit more effectively into the way people actually live today, but there's nothing wrong with the idea that exercising your right to vote should require some effort. We don't need to set up our polling places as if they are convenience stores.
What about extending in-person voting to a few days in the week before an election, including Saturday and Sunday? If schedules are so tight that voters can't find time in that window or on Election Day, then mail-in ballots could be used.
Expanding voting access to people who work odd shifts or multiple jobs or who have child-care or other family issues is an important goal. Lawmakers should revisit their proposal and scale back some of the requirements to make the costs more palatable.
Then, there would be no excuse for Christie not to sign it.