Category Archives: Advocacy

New Jersey Primary Election Information

The following post was written by LWVNJ intern Susan Pagano

Primary

2017 is going to be a big election season in New Jersey. New Jersey voters will select a new governor this year, and all 120 seats in the state legislature are up for grabs as well. It’s important for New Jersey voters to get out and vote in the primary and general elections, and the League of Women Voters of New Jersey is here to offer important information for voters who want to participate in the process.

The primary election is quickly approaching and will be held on Tuesday, June 6, 2017, but many voters are confused about what the primary election is and how they can participate. A primary election is one that allows members of a political party to choose a candidate to represent them in an upcoming election. This means that the winning candidates from the primary election will go on to represent the political party in the general election on November 7, 2017. New Jersey is a closed primary state, which means that only voters who are registered members of a political party may participate in nominating that party’s candidates.

Therefore, since New Jersey is a closed primary state, there are some important deadlines to keep in mind for voters who want to participate in the upcoming primary election. There are two main requirements for New Jersey voters to take part in the June 6th primary: 1) you must be registered to vote; and 2) you must declare your party affiliation. The deadline to register to vote is May 16, 2017, so qualified voters who are currently unregistered have until this date to complete and return their Voter Registration Application.

Voters who are registered to vote, but are not affiliated with a political party, will need to declare their party affiliation in order to vote in the primary. Unaffiliated voters can register with a political party up to and including Primary Election Day. There are two options for currently unaffiliated voters to declare their political party affiliation. You may either file a Party Affiliation Declaration Form with the Commissioner of Registration/Superintendent of Elections for your county by mail or in person, or if you choose to, you can also declare your affiliation at your polling place on Primary Election Day.

Voters who are already affiliated with a political party are ready to vote in the June 6th primary election! If you are unsure of your party affiliation, you can call your County Commissioner of Registration/Superintendent of Elections and ask. However, if currently affiliated voters wish to switch their party affiliation before the primary, they must file a Party Affiliation Declaration Form with the Commissioner of Registration/ Superintendent of Elections for their county at least 55 days before a primary election. The deadline to change party affiliation is April 12, 2017, and the form must be delivered by mail or in person.

Once registered voters have declared their party affiliation, it’s important to know who is running for your party. For a list of all the 279 candidates who have qualified for the June 6th primary for the Republican and Democratic nominations in each district, see this. If you don’t know your district, you can find it here.

It’s also important to remember that only the Democratic and Republican parties hold primary elections. The other recognized parties in New Jersey do not hold primary elections and instead select their candidates in a variety of ways. If you are a registered member of another party, you can participate in the convention of that party, but you cannot vote in either the Democratic or Republican Primary.

The League of Women Voters of New Jersey hopes that all New Jersey voters vote in the upcoming primary election on June 6, 2017. Polls will be open from 6am to 8 pm, and you can find your polling location here. If you have any questions, please call the League at 1-800-792-VOTE (8683) or email us at contact@lwvnj.org.

 

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Voting Rights by Northeastern States

The following post was written by LWVNJ intern Susan Pagano

voting-reform-graphicGraphic by LWVNJ intern Jack Streppone

States in the Northeast have some of the most voter-friendly legislation in the country; however, this is not the case for New Jersey. New Jersey’s voting rights legislation is seriously lacking in comparison to other states in the region. Let’s take a look at how rights for New Jersey voters stack up against other states in the Northeast.

The one area where New Jersey has similar legislation to other Northeastern states is in regards to in-person early voting. Even in these cases, though, the legislation is not accessible enough to have a significant, positive impact on voters. Some states, like Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts, allow limited in-person voting during a specified time before Election Day where voters must request an absentee ballot and can either mail or bring their ballot to their local municipal clerk. However, in New Jersey, absentee ballots are received by county clerks, so in most cases, there is only one location for voters per county, as opposed to one location per town or city like in the other states. Expanding in-person early voting options to more locations adds flexibility for New Jersey voters, which increases turnout, reduces the administrative burden on election days, and allows for early identification and correction of registration errors.

Unfortunately, the similarities stop there. Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania are six of the 34 states (plus the District of Columbia) that offer online registration as a method for registering voters, whereas New Jersey’s voter registration system is entirely paper-based. Additionally, Connecticut and Vermont have enacted automatic voter registration, and Pennsylvania and New York are currently considering legislation to implement their own programs, as well. Eligible voters in these states would be automatically registered to vote (unless they opt out) whenever they interact with a government agency, like the MVC. Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Connecticut also offer same day voter registration, which has been shown to have a significant, positive impact on voter turnout. In New Jersey, voters must register 21 days before an election.

Another area of voting rights where New Jersey legislation is significantly more restrictive in comparison to other Northeastern states is in regards to voting rights for people with felony convictions. Maine and Vermont have the most inclusive legislation in the entire nation, where people with felony convictions never lose the right to vote and can vote while completing their sentence. Those with felony convictions in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania lose the right to vote while incarcerated, with automatic restoration after release. In Connecticut and New York, people with felony convictions lose the right to vote until completion of their sentence, which includes parole. In New Jersey, those with felony convictions lose the right to vote until completion of their sentence, which includes parole and probation. New Jersey has the strictest law regarding ex-felon voting rights in the Northeast.

Therefore, in an effort to increase voter turnout, improve accessibility to the ballot, improve efficiency and save money, and ensure voting rights are protected, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey supports voting reform initiatives, which include online voter registration, automatic voter registration, expanded in-person early voting, same day voter registration, and rights restoration for parolees and probationers.  These voting rights reforms will not only benefit the New Jersey voters, but they will also create more inclusive voting rights legislation that is in line with other Northeastern states. If you’re interested in helping pass these reforms, contact us at jburns@lwvnj.org.

 

Educate. Advocate. Empower.

The League of Women Voters of New Jersey (LWVNJ) will hold our 59th Biennial Statewide Convention Saturday, April 30th at the Verizon Headquarters in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. LWVNJ is a grassroots network, directed by the consensus of its members throughout the state. Local League delegates will have the opportunity to vote on the business of the state League including program, nominations, bylaws and the budget. There will also be opportunities to discuss topics such as immigration, natural resources, voting, moderating and membership. Marcia Merrins’, LWVUS Board Member, will lead an important discussion on defending the League’s nonpartisan stance—a discussion that will be particularly useful to League moderators.

This year’s luncheon speaker is the founding editor of NJ Spotlight, John Mooney, who will speak about the present state of education in New Jersey. He has covered education issues for 15 years as a reporter for the Newark Star Ledger and Bergen Record and recently has been a contributing writer for the New York Times.

The awards ceremony will take place during the luncheon. During this time, LWVNJ will honor the service of local Leagues and the contributions of outstanding individuals, moderators, and 50-year members.

During the luncheon, there will be the raffle drawing in which three lucky ticket holders will have the chance to win a new laptop, a Kindle, or an iPad2. There is still time to purchase your raffle tickets and you do not have to attend the convention to win. The proceeds of this raffle benefit LWVNJ-EF’s mission to educate the public and promote civic participation. Tickets can be purchased online or by mailing a check made out to LWVNJ-EF Raffle, 204 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08608.

Register for the 59th Biennial Convention today! The registration deadline is Friday, April 15th. A late fee will apply after this date.

Register Online or Register by Mail.

Thank you to our Platinum Sponsor:

Don’t Play Politics with Women’s Health

The following is an op-ed written by LWVNJ President, Anne Maiese.

For 90 years, the non-partisan League of Women Voters of New Jersey has been fighting for women’s equality. Frankly, we are disgusted with the need for this fight. It is shameful and disparaging that in 2010, we are still debating the economic and social benefits of family planning and basic preventative health care for women.

You would think that women wouldn’t continue to be treated as second class citizens 90 years after winning the right to vote. But even as we prepare to celebrate Women’s Equality Day on August 26th, we are forcefully reminded that women are not considered equal – at least not where our health is concerned. The fact that our governor vetoed legislation to provide funding for women’s health services makes us acutely aware that the fight for equality is not over. And the prospect of our legislature not overriding that veto makes this disparity even clearer.

In the book “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn point out that after 1920, America’s maternal mortality rate began to decrease dramatically. They write, “A society that gave women the right to vote also gave their lives more weight and directed more resources to women’s health. When women could vote, suddenly their lives became more important, and enfranchising women ended up providing a huge and unanticipated boost to women’s health.” Apparently in the 1920s, our lives and health had more worth than in 2010.

The politicians who say they will not vote to override Governor Christie’s veto claim that this is about money.  Funny, the legislature had no problem finding the $65 million required to keep Bergen County blue laws. But they can’t find the $7.5 million required for the budget-neutral women’s health bill? Shouldn’t be very hard since the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services has already found available funds for them. The League of Women Voters of New Jersey isn’t buying it – this isn’t about the money. These politicians know that family planning services save taxpayers $4 for every $1 spent and bring in additional federal dollars. They know that cancer screenings and blood pressure checks help save lives and money long-term. They are aware that women who have access to family planning typically have smaller, healthier families. Overriding this veto is the fiscally responsible thing to do.

This is not about the money – it is about our elected representatives playing politics with our health and rights. Not supporting family planning is about politicians who are not willing to stand up for the 136,000 women and men who relied on these services last year because it means standing up to one very powerful man.

Take Action Today – Stand up for Women’s Health!