New Jersey Assembly Passes Bill to Restore Vote to People on Parole and Probation
A5823 Next Moves to Senate
NEWARK – Two years after the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and its partners launched the 1844 No More campaign to restore voting rights for those with criminal convictions, the New Jersey Assembly today passed legislation (A5823) to restore the vote to people on parole and probation.
This historic legislation, which will restore the vote to 83,000 people in New Jersey whose voices have been silenced due to institutionalized voter suppression, will now move to the Senate.
“We commend the New Jersey Assembly for taking this huge step forward toward restoring voting rights to people with criminal convictions in New Jersey,” said Ryan P. Haygood, President & CEO of the Institute.
Almost half the people denied the vote in New Jersey are Black, compared to only 15% of the population.
“Currently, the racism of the criminal justice system is directly imported into the franchise by an insidious form of voter suppression that creates voiceless ghosts of democracy in New Jersey. As we mark 400 years since slavery arrived in America, the time has come to end that practice. We look forward to the bill’s passage in the Senate, and to the Governor signing it into law,” added Haygood.
The 1844 No More campaign, named for the year when New Jersey first denied the right to vote to people with criminal convictions, the same year it restricted the vote to white men in its Constitution, advocates that the vote be restored to all people with criminal convictions, including those in prison.
“Final passage of this bill will bring us 83,000 times closer to the day when New Jersey joins states like Maine and Vermont and becomes a robust and inclusive democracy that does not silence people with criminal convictions,” said Henal Patel, Associate Counsel at the Institute. “As we celebrate today’s momentous step forward and then the bill becoming law, we will continue the fight to restore the vote to the 19,000 people in prison who are not included in this legislation.”
Ron Pierce, the Institute’s Democracy & Justice Fellow, has been denied the vote for over 30 years due to a criminal conviction. Now on parole, he will be able to vote once this bill becomes law.
“Since I was a child, participating in our democratic process has been important to me. The idea of casting my first ballot in over thirty years once this bill is passed is thrilling,” said Pierce. “I will continue to advocate for the 19,000 people this bill leaves behind – people who I know from my own experience will benefit greatly, as will their families and society – if their vote is restored.”