POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Facing Challenge Within Her Own Party, Nia Gill Turns Focus on Early Voting and Human Trafficking

One of the big battles brewing in the Democratic Party involves Mark Alexander challenging State Sen. Nia Gill for her seat. Party leaders in Essex County are expected to support Gill, but when she sat down with NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider, she didn’t have a definite answer about that or rumors that she could be a running mate for Barbara Buono in her bid for governor.

When asked if she knew which way Essex County Democratic leaders were leaning, Gill said, “We have been talking and so I look forward to being able to tell you more definitive information very soon.”

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Instead of being concerned about the challenge from fellow lawyer and Montclarian Alexander, Gill said she has been focused on her role as senator for the 34th district. “I’ve been focused on early voting, which just passed out of the Assembly so it will be on the governor’s desk tomorrow. I’ve been focused on the issue of human trafficking,” she said. “My bill passed out and will be on the governor’s desk tomorrow. And I have been focused on the implementation of the health exchange in the broader sense as well as the Medicaid expansion.”

When asked if she believed Gov. Chris Christie would sign the bills on early voting and human trafficking, Gill said, “I think it would be excellent public policy decision to sign both because they have a very positive and needed impact on the lives of the citizens of the state of New Jersey.”

Early voting has been a controversial issue across the country with Republicans in some areas claiming Democrats were using early voting as an unfair advantage. Gill said, “Providing more access to voting and doing it by early voting is really to engage the citizens in the government and in their lives.”

Gill said allowing early voting will likely increase voter turnout, if New Jersey follows in the footsteps of other states that already allow the practice. “I also think it is important to provide that additional access for voting,” she said.

Human trafficking has been an issue on Gill’s radar for some time. She said in 2005, her legislation made human trafficking a crime in New Jersey and was one of the toughest laws in the nation. In 2011, another one of Gill’s bills passed that offered services to individuals under age 18 charged with prostitution because of a presumption of human trafficking.

“This latest bill with Sens. [Nellie] Poe and [Joe] Vitale and myself, builds on the legislative accomplishments that I’ve had before, since 2005 with human trafficking and provides for prevention and for prosecution,” Gill explained.

The upcoming gubernatorial race is on the minds of many politicians throughout New Jersey and Gill’s name has come up as a possibility for a run as lieutenant governor with Buono. Gill failed to give a definitive answer, but insinuated that she wouldn’t be interested.