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Voting Rights Advocates Urge Gov. Murphy and Sec. of State Way to Ensure Robust Elections During Public Health Crisis

 

Voting Rights Advocates Urge Gov. Murphy and Sec. of State Way

to Ensure Robust Elections During Public Health Crisis

 

Groups’ Letter Details Steps to be Taken to Avoid Disenfranchisement

 

NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey sent a letter Thursday evening to Gov. Phil Murphy and Sec. of State Tahesha Way laying out steps that must be taken in order to ensure that upcoming elections in New Jersey are successful and robust, even during the current public health crisis.

“As we address our elections, it is paramount to prioritize health and safety, while also ensuring a thriving participatory democracy. Voting must be categorized as an ‘essential service’ and voters must have multiple options for accessing the ballot during this crisis. We are most concerned with communities, such as communities of color and the disability community, that historically face obstacles to the ballot,” said the groups in the letter.

Coronavirus Delays Newark's School Board Election Until May

Tapinto Newark Staff Reports

Newark's school board election will be delayed until May 12 and will be a vote-by-mail-only election in an effort to protect voters and ensure fairness to candidates during this unprecedented public health crisis, Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday.

Newark's school board election was initially scheduled for April 21, but the continuing spread of the coronavirus in New Jersey prompted the governor to sign an Executive Order delaying the election for all districts that hold it in April. Many school districts several years ago moved their elections to November.

“As the coronavirus outbreak continues to unfold, we must take aggressive and swift action to help mitigate further spread and flatten the curve,” Murphy said. “My top priority is to keep New Jerseyans healthy and safe during this pandemic, and these new measures will ensure that all New Jersey voters are able to safely exercise their right to vote and be engaged in our democracy.”

Two Parolees First to Re-Register to Vote as NJ Returns Right to Former Prisoners

NJSpotlight.com's Colleen O'Dea reports

The celebration was muted due to the current pandemic, but advocates and two men on parole who led a two-year battle to win back the right to vote celebrated nonetheless on Tuesday, the first day they were allowed to re-register to vote as early as the June primary.

The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice livestreamed the low-key event at Bethany Baptist Church in Newark, as Ron Pierce and Antonne Henshaw, former prisoners, walked one after the other to a podium, signed a voter registration form and talked about their feelings on regaining the right to vote.

“Since the governor signed the bill restoring voting rights to approximately 83,000 people in New Jersey on parole and on probation, I have been counting the days down to this day, when I could use the pen the governor used to sign the legislation into law to fill out and sign my registration form, reinstating my right to vote, letting me have a meaningful say in the direction of my community, state and nation,” said Ron Pierce, an NJISJ fellow who has been denied the vote for 34 years, including after his release from prison on a murder conviction.

Opinion: Voiceless For Decades in Prison. Today, Their Voice Finally Matters.

The Institute's President & CEO, Ryan P. Haygood writes

It was in 1844 that New Jersey first decided people with criminal convictions should lose the vote – the same year it restricted the vote to white men only in its Constitution.

On its face, the relationship between denying the vote to people with criminal convictions and Black history might not be evident. But the connection is clear.

Last year, more than 102,000 people in New Jersey were denied the right to vote because of a criminal conviction. Almost half were Black, though Black people comprise just 15% of New Jersey’s population.

This racial disparity is by design. It is a direct result of the racial discrimination in New Jersey’s criminal justice system, which has the worst racial disparities in America. A Black adult is 12 times more likely to be in prison than a white adult — the highest disparity in the nation, even though Black and white people commit most offenses at the same rate. By connecting voting to its broken criminal justice system, New Jersey literally imports this racism into its democracy.

Thousands Of Former NJ Prison Inmates Can Now Register To Vote

Patch.com's Eric Kiefer reports

NEWARK, NJ — A wave of formerly incarcerated people in New Jersey have taken their first steps towards voting in the 2020 election.

On Tuesday, former prisoners and civil rights advocates gathered at Bethany Baptist Church in Newark to mark the rollout of a new law restoring the voting rights of New Jersey residents on probation or parole.

The law, which Gov. Phil Murphy signed in December 2019, took effect today.

During the event, people such as Ron Pierce – who hasn't been able to legally enter a voting booth in more than 30 years – filled out voter registration forms, sharing an emotional moment of having their voice returned after years of being "disenfranchised," the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (NJISJ) stated.

Women’s History Month Kickoff Celebrates Women’s Right to Vote

Rutgers Claretta Bellamy reports

The Rutgers University-Newark (RU-N) community kicked off the beginning of Women’s History Month 2020 with this year’s theme of “The Right to Vote, The Right to Run.” The third annual campus-wide celebration titled “No More Hidden Figures - Continuing to Honor and Recognize the Sheroes Among Us” took place in the Essex Room of the Paul Robeson Campus Center on Wed., March 4. In addition to honoring women leaders of the Newark community, this event celebrated the 100-year anniversary of women’s right to vote in the United States.

The event began with a welcome from Lori Scott Pickens and Shanida Carter, co-chairs of the 2020 Women’s History Month Committee. The program was led by Sharon Stroye, director of public engagement in the School of Public Affairs and Administration.

Coronavirus Forces Online Learning in NJ, But What if You Can't Afford The Internet?

NorthJersey.com's Hannan Adely and Ashley Balcerzak report

As New Jersey rushes into a mass experiment with online instruction thanks to the coronavirus, Michelle Polo-Thorpe worries that her students will be left behind.

“I have 30 students in my homeroom class and only 11 have a cellphone,” said Polo-Thorpe, a seventh-grade English teacher in Paterson. “We have many students who are new to the country. They don’t have access to a computer outside of school or the public library.”

Gov. Phil Murphy ordered all public schools in the state to close by Wednesday, shifting 1.4 million pupils to remote learning as New Jersey races to contain the virus. But the vast majority of schools had already shut their doors by the start of the week, with a mix of online learning and self-study taking hold in homes across the state.

Coronavirus in Prisons? Not Yet, But Officials Halt Visits to State Inmates

NorthJersey.com's Ashley Balcerzak reports

While New Jersey jails and prisons have not seen any positive cases of coronavirus as of Saturday, state prisons will now suspend all visitors to the facilities except attorneys, Department of Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks said Saturday. 

The measure was set to take effect 5 p.m. Saturday and will last 30 days. The announcement does not apply to county jails, many of which already put in stricter new policies, but Gov. Phil Murphy said that "when the state moves, it's only a matter of time before counties line up."

“We know that families are a critical support to the population and our care but we also realize that ensuring the health and safety of our inmate population, our residents, our staff and the public are paramount importance during this public health crisis," Hicks said.

Registered Apprenticeship Programs Top 1,000 As NJ Awards $3M in New Grants

InsiderNJ.com staff reports

Newark, NJ – New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo announced the state had achieved a record number of Registered Apprenticeship programs and recognized the recipients of $3 million in new grants to expand earn-while-you-learn opportunities beyond the traditional occupations.

Asaro-Angelo announced New Jersey reached its 1000th Registered Apprenticeship program (there are now 1,002) – a 64 percent increase since Gov. Murphy took office in January 2018. Additionally, New Jersey is seeing unprecedented growth in the diversity of the apprentices funded through its GAINS (Growing Apprenticeship in Nontraditional Sectors) grantees, with 63 percent identifying as Hispanic, African American or female.

Key Groups Urge Governor To Expand Automatic Voter Registration To Medicaid

InsiderNJ.com staff reports

Trenton, NJ – A diverse coalition of organizations sent a letter to Governor Murphy urging his administration to expand automatic voter registration (AVR) to Medicaid. Signed into law in 2018, AVR currently allows eligible voters to be automatically registered to vote or have their voting information updated when interacting with the Motor Vehicle Commission, unless they decline registration.

The legislation authorizes the Secretary of State to designate additional government agencies to implement AVR. New Jersey’s Medicaid program touches nearly 1.7 million individuals, many of whom do not have the same opportunities to register to vote through traditional channels.