Category Archives: Advocacy

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!