Prepared to Vote

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.

Prepared to Vote 2016 is a non-partisan program that seeks to educate, engage, and empower communities of color through mobilization and preparedness in advance of Election Day, and by providing on-the-ground assistance to voters at the polls on Election Day. 

2016 marked the first presidential election in 50 years without a core protection of the Voting Rights Act, widely regarded as the greatest piece of civil rights legislation ever enacted.

11.16_Vote_3.jpg

On November 8, 2016, Demelza Baer, Policy Counsel; Andrea McChristian, Associate Counsel; and LaShawn Y. Warren, Vice President and General Counsel (pictured above) were on-the-ground in New Jersey cities making sure that every voter could cast their ballot.

Are you Ready to Vote? 

Follow these three easy steps before casting your vote! 

  1. Step OneRegister to vote. If you are already registered, verify your voter registration.

  2. Step Two: Find out when and where you're going to vote.
     
  3. Step Three: Know in advance what you need at the polls on Election Day. 

Need assistance?

Call the New Jersey Division of Elections at 609.292.3760, the Election Protection Hotline at 866.OUR.VOTE, or the Institute at 973.624.9400

Voting Information

Voting Information Project - Where can I vote in New Jersey?

New Jersey Division of Elections - Am I registered to vote in New Jersey?

Prepared to Vote 2016 focused on communities in New Jersey where voting measures or changes are likely to cause confusion; where a hotly contested election is anticipated; and/or where we have historically worked with partners to fulfill the promise of equality for people of color and other marginalized communities.

To ensure maximum participation by New Jersey’s voters of color in the November 2016 presidential election, Prepared to Vote 2016 educated people prior to Election Day through the dissemination of user-friendly materials that explain how to do the following: (1) register to vote and verify registration; (2) verify poll site locations; and (3) confront barriers to voting—such as confusion about acceptable identification, being asked to cast a provisional ballot in the correct precinct, restrictions on voting for people with criminal convictions, voting machine irregularities, and Election Day challenges by partisan representatives.  Prepared to Vote 2016 also encouraged voter registration through voter registration drives in targeted communities and host community forums and trainings in order to engage voters of color in communities across the state.

On Election Day, Prepared to Vote 2016 partners assisted voters with transportation to select polling locations and distributed voter empowerment tools and materials outside of the polls in select communities.  At the same time, Lowenstein Sandler LLP hosted an Election Protection Program voter hotline (866-OUR-VOTE) to report any issues at the polls and to answer questions from voters.  Where necessary, our on-the-ground partners (1) were dispatched to key polling sites to assist voters with problems they encountered, (2) observed the voting process, and (3) if any irregularities occured, reported them to the hotline, which in turn made appropriate reports to New Jersey elections officials and/or the Department of Justice.  

To ensure that all who are eligible can cast their vote, Rutgers Law School Constitutional Rights Clinic students represented Essex County residents who registered to vote but were turned away from the polls in their pursuit of court orders allowing them to cast ballots on Election Day.

Download the Voting Guide

51st Anniversary of the "Bloody Sunday" Selma to Montgomery March

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.

Obama___John_Lewis.jpg

Like Selma, New Jersey has a unique role in the long struggle to expand the franchise. Indeed, Atlantic City served as the site of the 1964 Democratic National Convention at which Fannie Lou Hamer, a civil rights heroine, powerfully delivered her famous speech in support of Black voting rights on behalf of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

And yet, on the 51st anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the VRA, we, along with thousands of marchers, confronted the harsh reality that we have yet to achieve a fully participatory democracy. Indeed, New Jersey law prevents more than 100,000 individuals with criminal convictions from exercising the fundamental right to vote, the right that is preservative of all other rights. Further significant work remains to ensure that all registered voters who have access to the ballot box use their votes. Recent important school board elections in Newark, for example, have seen approximately 10,000 voters out of more than 152,000 registered voters cast their ballots.

This reality inspired Institute staff to think boldly and creatively about the work of making democracy real for people of color across New Jersey as we approach the 2016 presidential election and the 2017 New Jersey gubernatorial election. Toward that end, the Institute is working to increase participation and access to the ballot box for urban residents by launching a voter engagement campaign for the upcoming 2016 presidential election and beyond. This initiative will include advocacy both before, and on, Election Day, with the goal of ensuring that every eligible urban resident who casts a ballot in the 2016 presidential election has that vote counted.