Bill to Restore Vote for People on Parole and Probation Passes, But We Must Re-enfranchise Incarcerated People

December 16, 2019

S4260/A5823 restores the right to vote to people who are on probation or parole

A bill to restore voting rights to people on parole and probation passed in both the Assembly and the Senate today and now moves to the Governor’s desk for signing. Advocates from the ACLU-NJ and other organizations advocated for the Legislature to also restore the right to vote for people who are incarcerated, who should never lose their right to vote in the first place.

“Restoring the right to vote to everyone who is on probation or parole is a monumental step to re-enfranchise people whose power has been undermined by decades of discriminatory policies – but we must go further,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha. “The more than 19,000 people who are currently incarcerated in New Jersey will still not be able to vote. Failing to fully restore the right to vote for everyone in our criminal justice system, which is plagued by drastic racial disparities, disproportionately excludes people of color from having their voices heard.”

This legislation stands to restore the right to vote for an estimated 82,988 New Jerseyans on probation or parole, although more than 19,000 people in New Jersey’s prisons and jails would still be disenfranchised. Deep disparities exist in New Jersey’s criminal justice system. A Black adult in New Jersey is 12 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white adult, the highest disparity in imprisonment rates between Black and white residents of any state in the country.

Although Black people comprise just 15 percent of New Jersey's overall population, they represent about half of those who have lost their voting rights as a result of a criminal conviction.

“We are grateful to Senator Rice, Senator Cunningham, and Senator Turner, the bill’s sponsors, for beginning the necessary process of re-enfranchising people in New Jersey who have had their right to vote unfairly suppressed for far too long,” said ACLU-NJ Senior Supervising Attorney and Director of Supreme Court Advocacy Alexander Shalom, who testified on S4260/A5823. “Though we have taken an important step toward a day when New Jersey elections are no longer tainted by discriminatory policies from the Jim Crow Era, we must restore the right to vote to all people who are incarcerated in the Garden State if we are to truly embody a representative democracy.”

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