You have the right to vote in NJ.
So why Vote?
- To have a voice in your community
- To give a voice to the concerns of friends and family in your community who cannot vote because they have been disenfranchised
- To elect representatives who represent you
- To put your concerns directly to your representative
- To elect representatives who will:
- Take action against discriminatory police practices, like racial profiling, that have resulted in predominantly African American and Latino prison populations.
- Reverse laws that prohibit ex-offenders from getting food stamps, student loans, public housing and public assistance.
- Pass laws that prohibit discrimination in employment based on unrelated criminal convictions.
- Address the failures and costs of the War on Drugs and rethink drug policy as an issue of public health, not criminal justice.
Your vote is important.
Laws that need changing
NJ needs to enfranchise all its citizens.
Currently, only Puerto Rico, Maine and Vermont guarantee the right to vote to all citizens, incarcerated or not. At least sixteen states enfranchise parolees and probationers. New Jersey does not. Almost 18 percent of African American men in New Jersey are prevented from voting because they are serving sentences. Given the racial disparity of our criminal justice system, the political voice of many communities has been greatly diminished.
NJ needs Drug Policy Reform. The current "War on Drugs" policies unfairly targets minorities.
New Jersey is #1 among the states in the proportion of new prison admissions who are drug offenders. While AfricanAmericans account for 15 percent of the population of New Jersey, they account for 81 percent of admissions to prisons for drug offenses.
NJ needs fair drug sentencing policies.
- New Jersey's Drug Offender Restraining Order Act of 1999: prohibits anyone convicted or even just charged with a drug law violation from revisiting the area in which the alleged violation is said to have occurred, or any area affected by the violation. This is a denial of due process and further separates ex-prisoners from their communities.
- New Jersey's 1000 Foot Rule: individuals convicted of drug crimes that take place within 1000 feet of a school receive harsher treatment and longer sentences. This disproportionately affects poor and minority people who live in cities where school zones extend throughout most of the area. They account for 81 percent of admissions to prisons for drug offenses. The New Jersey Commission to Review Criminal Sentencing has recommended reductions to the 1000-foot rule, citing data that question the law's effectiveness in reducing drug crimes.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965
In 1965, under pressure from civil rights activists, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act allowing Americans of every color the right to vote. Citizens fought hard to get this right to vote. In Mississippi, registration of African Americans rose from 6.7 percent in 1964 to 70.8 percent in 1986. In 2004, nearly 5,000 African-Americans held elective office across the South. Let's keep the pressure on.
In order to vote, you must first register
You can find out more information on how to register to vote and what to do if you have problems registering to vote or voting on Election Day at Registering to Vote in NJ After A Criminal Conviction.
Where to get information on candidates and election issues
There are many sources for information about candidates, including organizations that compare the views and platforms of the candidates, and the past voting records of incumbents. You can also contact an elected representative's office directly for information, attend city council, county council or state legislative sessions, follow newspaper coverage of candidates and issues, and search for information on the Internet at your local public library.
Other sources for information on voting issues
- League of Women Voters of New Jersey
- American Civil Liberties Union National Freedom Scorecard
- New Jersey Drug Policy Project
- Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)