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Urban News Staff Reports
A new law takes effect allowing people on probation and parole in New Jersey to register to vote. Advocates say the new law becomes a reality for people who have previously been silenced – some for decades.
A bill singed by Gov. Phil Murphy in December 2019 restored voting rights to New Jersey residents on probation or parole, a category that comprises over 80,000 individuals. Sixteen other states, including Indiana, Montana, and Utah, currently restore voting rights to individuals on probations or parole. The bill, A-5823, was passed on November 25 by the Assembly and on December 16 by the Senate.
The law took effect March 17, 2020, 90 days after signature.
To commemorate the occasion, the New Jersey Institute for social justice hosted a livestream on its Facebook page featuring two live voter registrations.
The event included comments from the Institute’s President & CEO, Ryan Haygood, and Rev. Timothy Adkins-Jones, Pastor of Bethany Baptist Church, where the event occurred.
New Jersey has denied the vote to people with criminal convictions since 1844 – the same year it restricted the vote to white men in its Constitution. As a result of the collective advocacy of the 1844 No More campaign,
Ron Pierce, the Institute’s Democracy & Justice Fellow, has been denied the vote for 34 years, and registered to vote.
“I think of my father today, on Saint Patrick’s Day, an Irishman who many years ago instilled in his children the importance and value of voting. How proud he was the first time I walked with him to cast my first ballot, fresh home on leave from boot camp in my Marine Corps Uniform,” said Pierce. “It sends my soul soaring knowing my father is watching me from above as I once again take on this great responsibility.”
Antonne Henshaw, an activist and student, got caught up in the criminal justice system at a young age, so never – until now – has had the right to vote.
“To think about 1844, we were still slaves. They foreshadowed it to say once this change comes, which they knew was coming, we want to be able in New Jersey to make sure that Blacks and Latinos would already be disenfranchised prior to the Emancipation Proclamation,” said Henshaw today after he signed his voter registration form.