Institute and Partners Respond to Release of Maurice Gordon Video

Institute and Partners Respond to Release of Maurice Gordon Video

Gordon Was Fatally Shot by NJ State Trooper on May 23


NEWARK – The New Jersey Attorney General’s office Monday released video related to the shooting death on May 23 of 28-year old Maurice Gordon by Sgt. Randall Wetzel on the side of the Garden State Parkway.

The video was released after advocacy from concerned citizens throughout New Jersey.

The following can be attributed to Ryan P. Haygood, President & CEO of the NJ Institute for Social Justice; Richard T. Smith, President, NAACP New Jersey State Conference; and Rev. Dr. Charles F. Boyer, Executive Director, Salvation and Social Justice:

“As we once again confront a tragic death of an unarmed Black man by police, this time here in New Jersey two days before the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, we are guided by the need for transparency, fairness and justice.


Cracks of Structural Racism are Erupting in Earthquakes, Says Institute



Cracks of Structural Racism are Erupting in Earthquakes, Says Institute

In response to recent events shining a light on racism in America – including the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on communities of color and the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd – the following can be attributed to Ryan Haygood, President & CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice:

“From the ravaging of communities of color by the pandemic, to case after case of brutal violence from racist policing, we are seeing our very foundation erupt into earthquakes from the deeply embedded cracks of structural racism.

“Marching in the streets is the correct response. It is a necessary response. It is a beautiful response. It is an inevitable response to generations of violence and harm.

Wearing Down Structural Evil With the Ministry of Erosion

The Christian Century's Willie Dwayne Francois III reports

The COVID-19 pandemic has grandly clarified the inequalities that lock American families and workers in ongoing economic jeopardy. The pandemic is not creating new economic vulnerabilities as much as it is exposing the generations-long political abandonment of tax-paying, voting people whose hard work keeps padding the pockets of politicians and the economic elite. As the pandemic’s impact grows by the hour and communities grapple with their responses, we are seeing that the coronavirus does not affect all equally. This is confirmed by the appalling death rates in Latinx and black communities, from Louisiana to New York.

Lawsuit in NJ Seeks to Limit Vote-By-Mail Ballot Rejections

NJ 101.5's Michael Symons reports

A coalition of New Jersey groups that includes the League of Women Voters, the NAACP and the Institute for Social Justice have sued the state in a bid to limit the number of people whose mail-in ballots get rejected in the July 7 primary.

In a typical election, about 1% of mail-in ballots are rejected. But voting-rights groups say it could be much higher in the primary if hundreds of thousands vote that way for the first time and risk flunking the signature match that is required.

Signatures on mailed-in ballots are compared with those on file – and if they don’t match, they’re rejected. Jesse Burns, executive director of the League of Women Voters, said the problem is that voters aren’t give a chance to say, yes, that vote’s really from me.

Police Chief Kyle Kroll Addresses Community Regarding Tragic Death of George Floyd Soma Staff report

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - The following letter to the community has been issued by Police Chief Kyle Kroll, with a request that it be made available to the community at the earliest possible time:

To Our South Orange Community:

Far too often, law enforcement personnel remain silent when we should be leaders in holding others in our own profession and ranks accountable. Our lack or perceived lack of moral courage to speak can easily lead the public to believe we are complacent.

COVID-19 Stalls Efforts to Help People With Felony Convictions Register to Vote

The Appeal's Stephanie Wykstra reports

In December, Kentucky advocates began hosting in-person meetings and going door-to-door, informing people with felony convictions that they might now be eligible to vote due to an order by Governor Andy Beshear that restored the right to vote to about 140,000 residents. 

But when COVID-19 hit, said Debbie Graner, “everything went to hell in a handbasket.” 

As a member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC), a nonprofit group that advocates for voting rights, Graner had pushed the state to expand the right to vote for years. She was disenfranchised herself and promptly registered to vote after Beshear’s order. 

N.J.’s ‘Hybrid’ Primary Election Sensible For These Times | Editorial

South Jersey Times Editorial Board writes

So far, so good, with plans for New Jersey’s primary elections, now scheduled for July 7.

Gov. Phil Murphy has issued guidelines for what some are calling a “hybrid” election, in which vote-by-mail options will be expanded and in-person voting will be available on a limited basis. Given the extreme circumstances, this is the best solution that participation advocates could hope for.

N.J. is Arbitrarily Throwing Out Thousands of Mail-In Ballots, Lawsuit Says's Blake Nelson reports

Ahead of a surge in mail-in ballots because of the coronavirus, New Jersey voting rights and social justice groups are suing to change how the state counts votes.

In order to verify a ballot, election officials currently compare the signature on a ballot with the corresponding signature on the initial application, according to state law.

Organizations Sue, Try to Force State to Fix Problems with Vote-by-Mail Signature Verification

NJ Spotlight's Colleen O'Dea reports

Thousands of New Jerseyans’ votes were not counted in each of the last two federal elections due to issues with their signatures on mail-in ballots, two prominent organizations point out. This has prompted them to sue the state in federal court to try to force it to fix a signature verification system they contend is unconstitutional.

The League of Women Voters of New Jersey, NAACP New Jersey State Conference and a disabled voter filed a complaint Monday in U.S. District Court against New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way, whose department oversees elections, alleging the state’s current law regarding the verification of vote-by-mail (VBM) ballots violates both the 1st and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution. They contend the state disenfranchises thousands of voters every year by a system that allows county officials to reject a VBM ballot when a signature does not match the one on file without telling the voter and giving him a chance to prove he voted, as some other states do.

Voting Rights Groups Laud Murphy’s Hybrid Primary Plan

New Jersey Globe's Nikita Biryukov reports

Three voting rights organizations lauded Gov. Phil Murphy’s plan for a hybrid primary in July on Monday.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, and the League of Women Voters of New Jersey celebrated the state’s plan to send mail-in ballots to at least 5.7 million voters in a bid to reduce the spread of COVID-19 at the ballot box.

“In these extraordinary times, maintaining and expanding access to the ballot are urgent, and we applaud Gov. Murphy for taking steps to safeguard the health of our democracy and the public health of our state,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha.  “As the pandemic exacerbates racial injustices across many fault lines, we must take measures to ensure the most fundamental rights are protected, particularly for communities of color who have been routinely disenfranchised since our founding.”