Times of Trenton Editorial Board: Listen up, young adults. N.J. is about to make it easier to register to vote

The Times of Trenton Editorial Board writes:

As it stands now, citizens are given the option to register to vote when they apply for a license. Under the proposal, when eligible residents visit the MVC, their information would be electronically transferred to election officials, thereby registering them to vote unless they actively opt out...

The bill has the support of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, the New Jersey Working Families Alliance and other local organizations.

Popsugar: A Second Grader's Answer to a Homework Question About the Police Is Truly Eye-Opening

Popsugar reports:

When asked to write a predicate to complete a sentence starting with "the police officer," the student wrote, "killed a boy." Ryan P. Haygood, president of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, later tweeted the young child's heart-wrenching answer and said, "Black kids know, as early as the 2nd grade, that they can be killed by the police."

Philadelphia Inquirer: This New Jersey law is blocking African Americans from voting in shocking numbers

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

Thirty years in prison can teach you patience. That’s a good thing for Ronald Pierce, who was paroled last year, as he’s likely in for a long fight.

Pierce, a 59-year-old North Jersey man, accepts that he’s on parole and will be for the rest of his life. But one thing he can’t accept: He’s also being denied the right to vote.

That’s because while the right is guaranteed to people on probation or parole in Pennsylvania and 15 other states, anyone under supervision for a felony conviction is barred from the ballot box in New Jersey.

He’s part of a coalition of activists, legislators, faith leaders, judges, and even former prison officials advocating for New Jersey lawmakers to pass bills introduced last month to restore voting rights to all citizens...

Pierce, who spoke at a forum in Cherry Hill to rally support for the legislation, said it’s not only unfair, it’s also bad public-safety policy.

“For people who are incarcerated, voting has a potential to be an effective means of rehabilitation,” he said. “I’ve seen this. When a person engages in civic dialogue, it opens them up to seeing beyond their personal needs to the issues that affect the community.”

Passage of Automatic Voter Registration an Important Moment for Democracy, Advocates Say

Advocates cheered the Senate and Assembly passage of automatic voter registration (AVR), which allows eligible voters to be automatically registered to vote or to have their voting information updated when interacting with the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) unless they decline registration. The bill now goes to Governor Phil Murphy’s desk.

“Automatic voter registration is an important first step in creating a more inclusive and representative electorate,” said Ryan Haygood, President and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (Institute).  “Our democracy is strongest when more people are able to have their voices heard.”

The Brennan Center for Justice, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey joined the Institute in applauding the legislature’s support of this common-sense reform.

“This is a big deal for New Jersey, and a great move by the state legislature,” said Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice and head of its voting rights and elections project. “Automatic voter registration is more efficient and accurate, and helps create an inclusive democracy where more eligible voters are able to have their voice heard on Election Day. It’s a smart, common-sense reform, and we’re excited to see more New Jerseyans get engaged in democracy because of the change.”

Under the AVR bill passed by the Legislature, when eligible voters interact with the MVC, the information they provide will be safely and accurately used to add their names to the voter registration rolls or update their registration unless they opt out. The bill also allows additional state government agencies to implement AVR in the future, so long as that agency is capable of accurately gathering and transferring the same information about eligible voters as the MVC currently collects.

“New Jersey took a huge leap forward today and we are hopeful that our state will emerge as a nationwide leader in ensuring accessibility to the ballot,” said Jesse Burns, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. “Automatic voter registration is smart, tested technology that has proven to be secure, boost registration, clean up our rolls, and save money.”

Automatic voter registration has been shown to significantly increase the number of people who register to vote when interacting with a motor vehicles office, while also making the voter rolls more accurate and up-to-date and saving money. In Oregon—the first state to implement automatic voter registration—nearly 100,000 of the new registrants turned out to vote in 2016. Importantly, Oregon’s voter rolls are now also more reflective of the entire state population. In passing AVR, New Jersey has joined a diverse and bipartisan group of eleven other states and the District of Columbia that have passed AVR legislation.

“At a time when our voting rights have been subject to a nationwide assault, our Legislature has made New Jersey a leader by broadening access to the ballot box,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha. “We’re hopeful that this step is just the first of many to expand New Jerseyans’ participation in the democratic process. We look forward to working with the Legislature to end disenfranchisement based on convictions, enable early voting, and secure the power of individuals to assert their voice in the same spirit of today’s important legislative action.”

“We are pleased to see the Legislature support this common-sense reform that will help more people register to vote,” added Institute Associate Counsel Scott Novakowski. “New Jersey has an opportunity to serve as a model of an inclusive and robust democracy. We must seize this moment by continuing to dismantle barriers to voting.” Don't let the Starbucks fool you. We're not gentrifying, and this is how. reports on Newark's affordable housing crisis, citing Institute Senior Counsel and Director of the Economic Mobility Initiative Demelza Baer's groundbreaking report:

The median household income is $37,000 and only 18 percent of residents are employed in the city. Median rents have risen 20 percent since 2000 in a city where 78 percent are renters. 



Star Ledger: Newark reflects on Dr. King's last visit 50 years ago

The Star Ledger reports:

"But 50 years after Dr. King's visit to Newark, we have made far too little progress as a nation,'' said Ryan Haygood, president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.

Haygood said blacks still have double the unemployment rate of whites, and the racial wealth gap has nearly tripled. Home ownership, he said, has declined for blacks, and incarceration rates have tripled.

"If there is a lesson for progressive people to learn from the past 50 years and today, it is this: People who care about racial and social justice cannot afford to be timid.''

Demelza Baer Joins Panel on Combating and Eliminating Segregation in NJ at The Color of Law Forum

Our partners at Monarch Housing Associates published this profile of Institute Senior Counsel and Director of the Economic Mobility Initiative Demelza Baer:

Demelza is the author of the groundbreaking report, “Bridging the Two Americas: Employment & Economic Opportunity in Newark & Beyond,” which has been cited in The New York Times and The Guardian. Her writing on racial and economic justice has been published in the Star Ledger, Asbury Park Press, and Next City.

She previously worked as a Policy Counsel for the Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where she worked on racial justice, women’s rights, disability rights, human rights, and criminal justice reform through advocacy before the U.S. Congress and Administrative Agencies.

Star Ledger Editorial Board: New Jersey's 94,000 Missing Voters

The Star Ledger Editorial Board writes:

Today, in a country with allegedly the finest justice system ever created by man, we choose to relegate 6.1 million Americans to second-class citizenship.

We silence them, we revoke a fundamental birthright, and we deprive them of dignity. And we do it because of a cockeyed notion that a central tenet of democracy - that government rules with the consent of the governed - should not apply to people with a criminal record.

NJ Spotlight: 50 Years Later - Fight for Racial Justice Continues, From Ground up

Institute President and CEO writes for NJ Spotlight:

Fifty years after it was conceived, it is long past time to finally make real the promise of the Poor People’s Campaign, and to grapple with the divisions detailed by the Kerner Commission. It is entirely clear, particularly at this moment in history, that resistance and change must happen from the ground up in our communities.

If there is a lesson for progressive people to learn from the past 50 years and today, it is this: People who care about racial and social justice cannot afford to be timid.

New Jersey, which embodied so many of these challenges in 1968 and today, can chart the path forward for the nation.