Will NJ Primary be Vote-by-Mail? After Tuesday it's in Limbo

Trenton Bureau's Stacey Barchenger, Katie Sobko and Richard Cowen report

The official results from dozens of local elections held by mail on Tuesday are still being tallied, leaving many races too close to call and the fate of the upcoming primary itself in question.

Because traditional in-person voting risked spreading the coronavirus, voters instead mailed in their ballots for Tuesday's more than 30 municipal, school board and special elections across the state. The election was seen as a bellwether for how voters will cast ballots in the primary, which has been delayed from June to July because of the novel coronavirus crisis.

Gov. Murphy, We Choose to Vote in Person and By Mail

Institute President & CEO Ryan Haygood writes

In the midst of a devastating pandemic, New Jersey is considering whether our July primary election should be a traditional in-person voting system or all vote-by-mail. Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to make an announcement any day now.

But this is a false choice between two limited options, each of which will suppress a significant number of votes – particularly, as we are already experiencing in this public health crisis, disproportionately impacting Black and other people of color and other vulnerable populations. The coronavirus pandemic has already exposed cracks in our foundation that are causing earthquakes in Black and other communities of color already besieged by structural racism. We must not make that worse.

Seven Days in Solitary

Solitary Watch's Valerie Kiebala reports

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) published an article highlighting the impending danger posed by severe negligence at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, where deaths caused by indifference to medical conditions have been documented from before the COVID-19 outbreak. Roger Rayson, a 47-year-old from Jamaica, was the first immigrant to die in ICE custody under Trump in 2017. Instead of receiving medical care for his advanced cancer and despite his reports of “constant, knife-like pain,” Rayson was placed in solitary for nine days at the LaSalle Processing Center in Louisiana, during which he never once saw a doctor and his condition brutally worsened. Two ICE facilities—the Hudson County Correctional Facility in New Jersey and the LaSalle facility—each saw a death due to negligence prior to the pandemic and both now suffer from an outbreak of the virus. Hudson County has been locking people down for “almost 24 hours a day since March 22,” but four employees have already died from the virus. According to ICE, as of April 27, 425 detained immigrants have tested positive for the virus, but the true number is most certainly higher, since only 705 people have been tested of the 30,700 people in ICE detention.


Voting Rights Advocates Applaud Hybrid Primary Election Decision

Voting Rights Advocates Applaud Hybrid Primary Election Decision

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 applaud Governor Murphy’s decision to significantly expand vote-by-mail in our state while maintaining in-person voting options. The groups praised the Executive Order signed Friday as a smart approach to elections that recognizes that people should not have to choose between their health and their ability to participate in a democracy.

In March, the groups joined with over 30 other national, state, and community organizations to send recommendations ahead of the decision to the Governor, Secretary of State, and legislative leadership meant to ensure a safe and robust election during the public health crisis. Several of those recommendations, including automatically sending postage paid vote-by-mail ballots to voters, maintaining in-person voting opportunities, providing secure ballot drop boxes, and relaxing the deadline for vote-by-mail ballots to be received, were adopted.

Voting Rights Groups Challenge New Jersey Signature Match Ballot Requirement

Voting Rights Groups Challenge New Jersey Signature Match Ballot Requirement 

New Jersey Must Provide Notice and Opportunity to Cure Rejected Mail-in Ballots in Time for July 7 Election 

NEWARK—Today, Campaign Legal Center, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, and Kaufman Lieb Lebowitz & Frick LLP filed a lawsuit on behalf of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, and an individual New Jersey voter, asking for relief for voters from the state’s flawed ballot signature match requirements which, each election, often impacts at least one percent of all mail-in voters.

As New Jersey continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Phil Murphy announced Friday that mail ballots will automatically be sent to the state’s active Republican and Democratic voters, with applications sent to unaffiliated and inactive registered voters. The resultant surge in mail ballots underscores the urgent need for procedural safeguards to assure voters that they can cast their mail ballots with confidence.

Facebook Live Conversation with Senator Cory Booker

Institute President & CEO Ryan Haygood joined U. S. Senator Cory Booker and Amol Sinha of the ACLU-NJ for a critical and compelling conversation about the cracks of structural racism being exposed in the pandemic, and the need to repair them now.

N.J. to be First State to Test Every Juvenile Offender as Coronavirus Cases Rise's Blake Nelson reports

All offenders and staff within New Jersey’s juvenile system will be tested for the coronavirus, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said Friday.

“We have to do everything possible here because this is such a special responsibility for us,” Grewal told NJ Advance Media. “They’re young people, and they’re in our care.”

The move makes New Jersey the first state to test every juvenile offender, according to Grewal, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and a spokesman for the Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that’s tracking cases nationwide.

Inmates Beg for Testing After Gov. Phil Murphy's Order Excludes 90 Percent of NJSP Population for Release

The Trentonian's Isaac Avilucea reports

TRENTON — For days, convicted murderer Peter Shanley was shuttled a half-dozen times between his cell in the west compound of New Jersey State Prison and the infirmary.

Inmates housed with Shanley in the same wing of the state’s maximum security facility told The Trentonian in recent interviews that he exhibited clear symptoms of the novel coronavirus for weeks.

They suspected he was also undergoing cancer treatment because of the medical ward they’d see him visit before the outbreak, something The Trentonian couldn’t independently confirm.


After Slow Start, NJ Begins Furloughing Prisoners to Stem Spread of COVID-19

NJ Spotlight's Colleen O'Dea reports

It took more than two weeks, but the New Jersey Department of Corrections over the weekend began furloughing a small number of inmates to try to stem the spread of COVID-19, but some advocates say this is too little, too late.
As of 8 p.m. Monday, the DOC had released 54 individuals and put them on emergency medical-home confinement (EMHC), according to department spokeswoman Liz Velez. That represents fewer than 3% of those thus far eligible under the executive order Gov. Phil Murphy signed April 10 that allows the furloughs.

COVID-19 Isolation for Youths Raises Concerns in New Jersey

Juvenile Justice Information Exchange's Marco Poggio reports

On July 11, 2019, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy used the power of his pen to seize a unique political opportunity: putting his signature on one of the most ground-breaking laws in the country limiting the use of solitary confinement for juveniles.

It was a triumph for the juvenile justice advocates and formerly incarcerated people, many of whom had counted their days in isolated cells. They had showed up at the state’s legislative sessions wearing T-shirts saying things like “Solitary Confinement = Torture” to pave the way for the bill to pass. 

“I am proud to stand together with New Jersey’s criminal justice reform advocates and legislators to advance a humane correctional system,” Murphy said in a statement on the day he signed the bill.