ACLU-NJ To Protect Voters' Rights This Election Day

November 1, 2009

Newark — The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) and League of Women Voters of New Jersey (LWVNJ) will again team up this Election Day, November 3, to offer help to voters statewide and to collect information that sheds light on how well our election systems work. The ACLU-NJ and LWVNJ will assist voters who have questions or experience problems through our voter assistance hotline, 1-800-792-VOTE, near several New Jersey polling sites, and at county election courts.

"The League of Women of New Jersey and ACLU-NJ are committed to safeguarding democracy and voting rights as New Jersey heads to the polls," said Anne Ruach Nicolas, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. "Through the hotline, at the polls, and in the courthouses, New Jersey voters can reach us, quickly and easily, to report issues and for assistance."

Unfortunately, a New Jersey Supreme Court decision in September limited the ability to help voters and document problems this year. The court banned all exit polling — including by media organizations — and voter education within 100 feet of a polling site, overstepping the intentions of laws protecting voters from intimidation. The organizations' voter protection efforts will shift focus this year to a strong presence on its voter hotline and at election courts in light of this recent decision, which severely limits Election Day free speech.

As in years past, volunteer attorneys will be available in some counties to represent voters turned away from the polls who then petition the court for the right to vote. However, this year, the ACLU-NJ and LWVNJ want to call attention to a particular problem reported last year in several counties involving deputy attorneys general (DAGs), who represent the counties' side in disputes over voters' eligibility. Would-be voters who had filed court applications to vote did not have the information they needed to understand that DAGs who asked them for detailed information were entitled to use their responses in legal arguments against them. The ACLU-NJ has developed a Know Your Rights in the Courthouse (258k PDF) publication, which volunteers will distribute to voters at courthouses on Election Day.

"Our voter protection efforts bring transparency to election systems that operate far too often behind a curtain," said Deborah Jacobs, ACLU-NJ Executive Director. "The information we gather enables us to provide the most comprehensive analysis of weaknesses in New Jersey's election systems, one of which is lack of collection and analysis of the complaints the state itself receives."

The LWVNJ and ACLU-NJ will staff the hotline, 1-800-792-VOTE, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, November 3, to answer voters' questions and offer assistance with problems voters may encounter at the polls. The League's voter assistance hotline is available year-round.

Read the ACLU-NJ and LWVNJ report — Making Every Vote Count: 2008 Elections (1.7mb PDF) — on elections issues that arose during the 2008 elections, including recommendations for poll monitor training and voter education.

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