Institute Responds to Budget as NJ Legislature Prepares to Vote

Institute Responds to Budget as NJ Legislature Prepares to Vote 


NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice today issued the following statement in response to the FY2022 budget to be voted on tomorrow in the New Jersey Legislature.

“While the budget process has lacked adequate transparency and a strong democratic process, it includes several important items when it comes to advancing racial and social justice, and we hope that New Jersey will take even bolder and more progressive steps in the future.”

In the area of economic justice:

“We are pleased to see the budget helps to expand access to affordable higher education through a continued commitment to the Community College Opportunity Grant program and the implementation of the new Garden State Guarantee, which will help more eligible students access tuition-free college at New Jersey’s two and four-year public institutions. Successful implementation of the Garden State Guarantee as well as sustained funding and increased awareness of both programs moving forward will greatly expand higher education opportunities for low-income students in New Jersey and serve to reduce racial disparities in higher education. 

Institute Launches Reparations Campaign with Juneteenth Rally and Engagement Tools



Institute Launches Reparations Campaign with Juneteenth Rally and Engagement Tools

With Wide and Diverse Support, Say the Word Campaign Calls for Passage of Legislation for a New Jersey Reparations Task Force


NEWARK -- The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice today launched a Say the Word: Reparations campaign calling for passage of S322/A711 to establish a Reparations Task Force in New Jersey.

Over 100 organizations have endorsed the campaign or signed on to a letter to elected officials urging passage of the pending legislation.

“Surprising to many, New Jersey has a substantial and dark history of slavery,” said Ryan Haygood, President & CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “A direct line can be drawn from that history to today, when we have some of the worst racial disparities in America. It is time to repair the harm in a deep and lasting way, and reparations must be a part of that. Reparations can look like different kinds of investments in New Jersey’s Black communities, but we must embrace the word and not run from it.”

Despite being a northern state, New Jersey – which has been referred to as the “slave state of the North” – incentivized slavery at our state’s founding, when white settlers received 150 acres of land and were eligible to receive an additional 150 acres for every enslaved person they brought with them. New Jersey had a “slave code” in 1704 prohibiting African Americans from owning property. By 1830, over two-thirds of all enslaved people in the North were held in our state. 

Juneteenth Rally to Say the Word: REPARATIONS



Juneteenth Rally to Say the Word: REPARATIONS

With Support of Over 30 Groups, June 19 Rally in Newark Will Call for Passage of S322/A711 to Establish Reparations Task Force in New Jersey

NEWARK – On June 19 at 12 PM, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, racial justice advocates and elected officials from across the state will gather in Newark to celebrate Juneteenth and to call for passage of pending legislation to establish a Reparations Task Force in New Jersey. This will be the first Juneteenth recognized by New Jersey as a state holiday.

A copy of the event flyer including logos of more than 30 widely diverse organizations can be found here.

“While we rightly celebrate the liberation of enslaved people on Juneteenth, we must also double down on our commitment to create an equitable and just America – and New Jersey – where Black people are truly free and not restricted by the shackles of structural racism,” said Ryan Haygood, President & CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.

Say ‘the Word’ This Juneteenth | Opinion

Institute President & CEO Ryan Haygood writes

When New Jersey celebrates Juneteenth as a state holiday for the first time on Saturday, people from across the state will rally in Newark with one clear message: It’s time to say “the word.”

That word is “reparations.”

Juneteenth — also known as Freedom Day — has been a tradition in the United States for more than 150 years.

It marks the day, June 19, 1865, when enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas finally learned about their freedom — more than two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863.

Institute and Partners Request Investigation into Problems at Newark Voting Locations



Institute and Partners Request Investigation into Problems at Newark Voting Locations

Essex County Election Issues Felt Disproportionately by Voters of Color


NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and 19 other advocates today sent a letter to Essex County Superintendent of Elections Patty Spango requesting an investigation into problems at multiple polling places in Newark for this week’s primary election and elections past.

During the June 8 primary, multiple polling places in Newark did not have voting machines when polls opened, and it took hours for the machines to arrive. Voters were left having to use provisional ballots – a necessary backup but one that should not have been needed – or return later to try again.

“I went to my Newark polling place at 7:30 on Tuesday morning to cast my ballot only to find that there were no voting machines available,” said Ryan Haygood, President & CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “I was told to return later and not offered a provisional ballot until I proactively requested one. Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have encountered voting obstacles in Newark. Running elections is a massive endeavor, but we must do better.”

Democracy Advocates File Brief in Case Challenging New Jersey’s Primary Ballot Design


Democracy Advocates File Brief in Case Challenging New Jersey’s Primary Ballot Design

Brief Argues “the Line” Subverts Democracy, the Right to Vote and Fair Representation


NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and Campaign Legal Center today, on behalf of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey and Salvation and Social Justice, filed an amicus curiae brief in Conforti v Hanlon, a case challenging New Jersey’s use of “the line” and other misleading features in its ballot design. A pdf of the brief can be found here.

New Jersey is the only state in the country that organizes its primary election ballots by bracketing together a county-supported group of candidates in a column or row (“the line”), rather than listing each office and the candidates for that office in separate sections from one another. These bracketing rules in addition to other ballot design defects not only mislead and confuse New Jersey voters, but also disproportionately harm voters and candidates of color.

“During a time when democracy is under attack and we must do everything possible to strengthen and expand it, New Jersey is instead subverting it by maintaining an outmoded primary ballot design that misleads and confuses voters and interferes with their right to vote,” said Henal Patel, Director of the Democracy and Justice Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “These ballot design flaws disproportionately burden Black and other voters of color and make it more difficult for candidates of color to win office, undermining the goal of fair representation. This is exactly the opposite of what our state should be doing during these pivotal times.”

New Jersey Election Protection Coalition Releases Report on 2020 General Election


Report Analyzes Eleven Key Challenges Experienced by Voters

NEWARK – The New Jersey Election Protection Coalition (the “Coalition”) today released a report (the “Report”) analyzing issues New Jersey voters encountered during the November 3, 2020 general election, including in the weeks leading up to it beginning on October 15. A full copy of the Report can be found here.

The Report highlights the challenges posed in an election run during a global pandemic and notes that, despite these challenges, New Jersey administered a safe and sound election. Indeed, the data show significant successes: more than 400,000 voters used a new online voter registration system that launched the month before the voter registration deadline, and turnout was historically high. At the same time, issues reported by voters throughout the state and verified by Election Protection volunteers reveal that the procedural changes necessitated by the pandemic did not always go smoothly and that some longer-term problems resurfaced in this election.

The Coalition consists of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, the Delaware-New Jersey National Lawyers Guild, Disability Rights New Jersey, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, Lowenstein Sandler LLP and the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.

New Jersey Institute for Social Justice Reacts to Chauvin Trial Verdict



New Jersey Institute for Social Justice Reacts to Chauvin Trial Verdict


NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice today reacted to the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.

The following can be attributed to Ryan Haygood, President & CEO:

“America let out a breath today because legal justice was served.

“Even in this case, where we saw with our own eyes a police officer crush the life out of George Floyd, history did not forecast this verdict with any certainty.

“Yet even as we acknowledge legal justice in this one case, we must remember that real justice would mean that George Floyd was still alive.

“True justice would mean that Mr. Floyd would have the opportunity to see his children and grandchildren grow up. And so much more.

New Jersey Institute for Social Justice Statement on Passing of Melville “De” Miller


New Jersey Institute for Social Justice Statement on Passing of Melville “De” Miller


April 6, 2021

NEWARK – It is with great sadness, respect and appreciation that the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice acknowledges the recent death of Melville “De” Miller and expresses our deepest condolences to his family and all those who mourn his passing.

De’s life-long commitment to New Jersey’s most impoverished residents was seen in how he built and led Legal Services of New Jersey and its Poverty Research Institute. His enormous advocacy skills, always grounded in the lived experience of individuals and families who had the least and suffered the most, were combined with a keen understanding of the law – both what it was and what it should be. His legacy is reflected most profoundly in how he sought to make real and tangible our nation’s aspiration that everyone should have access to justice – not only those with the resources to obtain it.

Governor Murphy Signs Legislation Establishing In-Person Early Voting in NJ


Historic Legislation Continues Murphy Administration's Commitment to Expanding Access to Democracy

     TRENTON – Governor Murphy, joined by legislators and advocates including national voting rights leader Stacey Abrams, today signed legislation (
S3203), which establishes in-person early voting in the State of New Jersey. The legislation is the latest in a series of initiatives by the Murphy Administration and the Legislature to expand access to voting rights and democracy amidst a wave of voter disenfranchisement measures across the country.

     "While other states are looking to find ways to keep their citizens from voting, we have consistently worked to ensure that the voices of the people are heard," said Governor Murphy. "I am immensely proud to sign this legislation today and to remind the nation that our democracy wins when we open the doors of our polling places wide instead of slamming them shut."

     "As New Jersey's chief election officer, I welcome this opportunity to make our state even more voter-friendly," said Secretary of State Tahesha Way. "In person early voting will strengthen our democracy by providing voters with more options to cast their ballot."