Pillar III: Civic Engagement

Pillar III: Civic Engagement

Protecting and Promoting the Right to Vote

Full, equal, and active access to the ballot box is essential to empowering communities of color throughout New Jersey and our nation.

We are working to make the promise of democracy real for people of color across New Jersey.

New Jersey Prepare to Vote 2016

  • In New Jersey, more than 100,000 people are prevented from exercising the right to vote because of criminal conviction
  • Recent important school board elections in Newark have seen approximately 10,000 voters out of more than 152,000 registered voters our of more than 152,000 registered voters cast their ballots. 

To safeguard the voting rights of New Jersey’s voters of color, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and its initiative New Jersey Communities Forward, together with the Garden State Bar Association, NAACP New Jersey State Conference, Latino Action Network, New Jersey Black Issues Convention, Rutgers Law School Constitutional Rights Clinic, and the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, launched Prepared to Vote 2016. 

Prepare to Vote in 2016

Communities Forward


New Jersey Communities Forward (NJCF) is a cutting-edge initiative spearheaded by the Institute. With a focus on fair and effective policing and economic opportunity for all urban residents, NJCF provides a safe space for honest conversations among community residents, law enforcement officials, policy makers, and business entities. NJCF aims to empower urban communities by using dialogue to achieve sustainable results. At its core, NJCF’S work is building bridges for communication between groups who have not historically spoken to each other or that have spoken often in anger and from ideologically divided camps. These conversations are not themselves an end, but an important gateway towards a more durable set of relationships and community-based solutions to the issues affecting urban communities.

Learn More

This year, the Institute staff joined thousands of people in the 51st anniversary commemoration of the “Bloody Sunday” Selma to Montgomery march, which led to the passage of landmark legislation—the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA).

On Bloody Sunday, John Lewis and Reverend Hosea Williams led almost 600 men, women, and children in a peaceful march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to dramatize to the nation their desire to participate in the political process.

During the reenactment of the march, we reflected on the way in which the activism that gave birth to the VRA led to the election of a Black President and more than 10,000 other Black elected officials—including federal and state representatives, mayors, school board members, and city council members—within a generation of its passage.



Without a vote, a voice, I am a ghost inhabiting a citizen’s space.

– Joe Loya, Pastor, Author, and formerly incarcerated person


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Interested in hosting a New Jersey Communities Forward forum in your community? 

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