Category Archives: Voting

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.

 

Know Your Voting Rights!

Election Day is November 8th, 2016! Make sure that you know your voting rights before you head out to the polls!

know-your-rights-002

You have the right to vote on Election Day if:

  1. You have registered to vote at least 21 days before Election Day. There is no fee to register to vote. You have the right to register at your primary address – this could be college address if you are a student and if you are homeless, it can be any place you usually stay.
  2. You must meet the legal requirements in order to register.

You can register to vote if:

  1. You are a U.S. citizen, you are at least 17 years old (with the understanding that you cannot vote until you are 18), and have been a resident of a New Jersey county for at least 30 days before the election.
  2. A court has not specifically determined that you lack the mental capacity to understand the act of voting.
  3. You are not in prison, on probation, or on parole for a felony conviction. If you are serving time for a misdemeanor or civil matter, you can still vote. You have the right to register and to vote from jail using a mail-in ballot. If you lost your voting rights for a felony conviction, your right to vote is restored once you complete your sentence, parole and probation. You must re-register to vote, even if you were registered before your conviction.

NJ Voters’ Bill of Rights On Election Day

You have the right:

  1. To vote in private without intimidation, threats, coercion, or interference.
  2. To bring your children into the voting booth with you.
  3. To file a signed or anonymous written complaint at your polling place or by mail, telephone, or online if you are dissatisfied with the way the election is being run.
  4. To bring someone of your choice into the voting booth to assist you with voting if you cannot read or write English or have a disability. You can also request special assistance from the poll worker.
  5. To vote by an emergency paper ballot if the machines are malfunctioning. Emergency ballots are counted automatically.
  6. To be given a provisional ballot if you are not allowed to vote on an machine or by emergency ballot. The ballot should have written instructions, including how to find out if it was counted. Your eligibility to vote must be verified by the county before your provisional ballot is counted.
  7. To vote under your original name if you have changed your name since registering to vote.
  8. To ask for assistance from a poll worker.
  9. To maintain a “reasonable” amount of time to cast your vote in the voting booth.
  10. Bring voting materials (such as the sample ballot), but no other campaign materials into the voting booth to help you.

Voting Problems at the Polls?

If your polling location is not open when you arrive, call our hotline at 1-800-792-VOTE (8683) or the Division of Elections at 1-877-NJVOTER to alert officials of the problem. Polls are open 6am-8pm. If your right to vote is challenged by an official challenger, ask the poll worker for an affidavit, which you will sign to confirm your identity or address. The worker will allow you to vote either on the machine or by a provisional ballot.

You have the right to vote by Provisional Ballot if:

  1. You believe you are entitled to vote but your name is not on the poll list of voters.
  2. You have moved recently within your county and have not registered at your new address.
  3. You are a first-time voter and you did not provide the accepted form of ID when you registered to vote and did not bring it on Election Day. You must bring acceptable ID to the appropriate county office within 48 hours of voting for your provisional ballot to be counted. Poll workers must give you a form that tells you where the office to bring your ID is located.
  4. You requested a mail-in ballot but didn’t receive it in time.

If you are not allowed to vote or if you feel you are wrongly made to vote on a provisional ballot when you’re entitled to vote on the machine, you have the right to present your case to an election judge on Election Day who will determine your eligibility to vote. If you intend to appear before an election judge, call our Voter Protection Hotline at 1-800-792-VOTE (8683) for assistance.

 

 

Why I Vote

The following is written by Paul Barudin, League Intern.

Possibly our first really important influence as to why we vote is our parents. From an early age they teach us about our life, how to live it, and how to shape it into what we will ultimately be living in. From learning to drive, to making food, to voting, our parents help us to define who we are, what we think and more importantly, why we think those things, even if we happen to disagree. Guy Barudin is my father as well as a managing director of Terrapin Partners, LLC and a portfolio manager at Terrapin Asset Management, LLC.

We keep in frequent touch and talk often. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind answering a few of my questions, especially with November 4th on the horizon, I thought I would try to get his insight as to his thoughts and perspectives about the vote.

Guy BarudinWhen was the most recent time you exercised you’re right to vote?
Personally, I voted in the last presidential election in 2012 and in a couple of local NJ elections since then. I didn’t vote in the 2014 primaries but expect to vote this November.

When you cast a vote, what does it feel like to you?
When I walk into a voting booth physically or mark an absentee ballot, I remember my parents and all the people I know who served in the armed forces. I think of all the challenges people have around the world simply trying to vote in countries wracked by war. I’m proud to be able to vote. I get a little emotional.

When you were registered to vote (for the first time) do you remember what it felt like?
Actually, I don’t remember – it was a long time ago – but it wasn’t long after the Vietnam War ended for the US and I had to fill out some draft papers at the same time. It was a little scary, but also felt like the first “grown up” thing I’d done.

Are you more likely to vote in certain kinds of elections (local, statewide, national, referendums)?
I’m definitely more likely to vote in a local election where there is an issue I find important, and for congress and senate elections. If I think that a competent person is running and they aren’t being challenged by a dummy, I’m less likely to vote.

Do you think it’s important for people to vote? Explain why.
The very nature of our towns, our counties, our states, and our country, relies on people being knowledgeable about facts and giving voice to their opinions in ways that effect leadership. This means taking time to go to meetings, to stay informed about current events. It means maybe even to serve on committees or hold office on everything ranging from local school and town groups all the way up to groups involved in national or international issues. It’s about taking an active role in our lives, not just sitting back and going along for the ride. Our votes are one way we participate in our public lives. In the US, we have the right to vote because of great things previous generations did. We should vote to have a voice in our own lives and to honor our history and the sacrifices made by Americans who came before us.

Do you see your vote impacting your community?
Yes – absolutely. School board elections and town council elections have direct effect on the quality of our streets and towns. State and county elections lead to the management of things as tangible as road improvement and park services, school curriculum, local taxes. To not vote is to put control of our lives into the hands of other people with whom we may or may not agree.

When voting season comes around, do you ask friends and family if they’re going to vote as well, or do you keep it to yourself?
I’m a nag – I remind people they should vote. I remind them they can request absentee or advance ballots if they aren’t sure they can get to the polls physically. Probably my friends and family think I’m annoying.

Vote!

Why vote?

The following is written by Paul Barudin, LWVNJ Intern

Why do I vote? It’s a funny thing actually. Considering that up until rather recently in my life I was very jaded about the idea of voting. Like most people I’m sure that the answer is multifaceted, but I’ll try to bring it down to its base parts.

I voted in the presidential election of 2012. I was a sophomore in college at the time, and had to send in my vote via absentee ballet. At the time, it was something of a chore, a nuisance, mostly because I was worried about more immediate issues like tests and socializing. Voting had never been a real part of my life up until then. Even when I had turned 18, I didn’t educate myself on when I could vote, who the candidates were, or even when the next election was.

And I don’t think that I really understood the importance or impact of my vote until a few days later, when I was invited to a SU Republican and Democrat party to watch as the votes were tallied and the states were won.

As an unaffiliated voter, I wasn’t prepared for the partisanship of the party. Elephants and Donkey shaped cookies, banners of the respective candidates on the walls, my peers wearing t-shirts with candidate slogans emblazoned on their chests. It was all a little overwhelming to say the least. I’d never seen this many people get so riled up about something so far away, and yet so familiar. The buzz of energy in the air is thick, and with each state won, respective students from each side cheered and sighed. And looking at them made me realize that my opinion (that people, youth especially) were all tired/jaded by politics was wrong. I got to see a different part of my generation. And it was an eye opening experience.

I think the reason I vote, the main reason, is as a reminder to myself to have compassion. Yes, I vote for those who will move towards actions I care for, but it’s more than that. Voting is important, a civic duty. It is a physical way to show I care about things, my state, my country, and the world. Voting is a way I can show myself that I don’t just think a big game. That I commit to those thoughts, and that I follow through.

Voting: A Family Affair

The following blog post is written by Jasmine Boddie, LWVNJ intern.

Boddie FamilyIt was Election Day of 2012 at 6:00 am in the Boddie household. I was peacefully asleep when the sound of a knock on my door echoed throughout my room. All I heard next was my mother’s voice stating, “It’s time to go vote.” I sprang out of bed as fast as possible and flew downstairs ready to go. Already waiting was my father and older sister Brittany. Of course the youngest of the bunch, Cortnee was the last one ready. Finally, we were ready to go to the polls. The five of us plus our dog Fancie walked down the street toward the fire station, our polling place. We each placed our votes. However, Cortnee could not because she wasn’t of age yet. This was the first time I was able to vote since I had turned 18. Now in the year 2014 we are all eligible to vote.

My family and I were extremely excited about this election. So, my mother had an idea that we should all go to NYC to watch the voting results. We all bundled up tight and went to MSNBC studios to watch. We got to take pictures wearing all types of gear in red, white and blue. After, the election was decided the streets of NYC exploded with excitement. There were huge screens everywhere with the President’s picture on it. At around this time we were ready to head back home because we were frost bitten by then.

Voting in my family has always been a family affair. From a very young age my sisters and I were exposed to the world of politics. The news and political debates were constantly on television in our house. Many people in my community do not vote at all. They feel as though one vote won’t change anything or make a difference. However, if everyone has that mentality, that one vote that wasn’t cast turns into hundreds of votes.

I vote not only for myself but for the African American community as well. We weren’t always given the right to vote in our history. I tip my hat to those individuals that have come before me and fought for the privilege that many take for granted. I vote for the women that have passed on that were never given the opportunity to express their political views. I will make sure to keep my families voting traditions alive when I pass them on to my children. This way we will have instilled in generation after generation the importance of voting.

Why I Vote

The following is written by Liz Huang, LWVNJ intern.

Liz HuangGrowing up, I remember learning about the extensive history of voting in the United States in my classes, and watching the adults around me vote in the general and primary elections. However, one of my most vivid voting memories was the first time I actively contributed to the voting process. At the time, I was only a sophomore in high school.

In 2008, through a United States history class I was taking, my classmates and I became student volunteers for the local League of Women Voters of New Jersey in our town. I was almost 16 years old, and I went to senior classrooms with my peers to help senior high school students complete their Voter Registration forms. Our goal was to register as many seniors at our high school to vote for the 2008 Presidential Election that was just around the corner. It was a great experience being able to engage and contribute to the overall voting process, especially during a Presidential Election year.

When I turned 18 years old in the end of 2010, I had just missed Election Day by a few weeks. It was disappointing, but in the grand scheme of things, it was eye opening to realize that I would be able to cast my vote in all future elections beginning in 2011.

I vote because I want to assert what I believe in and make a difference. Voting allows me to express my personal opinion on issues that affect everyone: education, health services, environmental issues, etc.

I highly encourage every individual to exercise their right to vote! And as often as they can. There are plenty of nonpartisan resources available to engage and empower voters to make informed decisions. If you cannot vote in person on an Election Day, there is always the option to vote via a “Vote by Mail Application.” Every opinion- younger and older generations alike- matters. Go out there and let your voice be heard. Make a difference.