Tag Archives: voter registration

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.

 

Civics 101: Voting

The following blog post was written by Vishali Gandhi, LWVNJ summer intern.

The United States was founded upon principles of democratic government and freedoms, among them the right to vote for representatives in government. However, voting was not always universal. Voting rights were initially reserved for only white, property-owning males, but as the country grew and progressed, suffrage (the right to vote) expanded to include non-land owners, people of color, and women. While requirements to register differ according to state, in order to vote in New Jersey you must be a citizen of the U.S., 18 years of age by the time of the election, a resident of NJ for at least 30 days prior to the election, and you cannot be serving time in jail or on probation or parole for a felony.

In order to register to vote, you must complete a Voter Application form and either mail it or hand it in to either the Commissioner of Registration or Superintendent of EVotelections, depending on your county. You can check to see if you are registered and where you are registered through the Division of Elections website, or by calling your county’s Commissioner of Registration or Superintendent of Elections. You must register to vote at least 21 days before the date of the election in order to participate in that election.

General elections, including elections for the President, Governor, members of Congress, state legislators, and some county and municipal officials, are scheduled for the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November during a year in which an election is due. Primary elections, during which parties nominate a candidate to run during the general election, are held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in June. New Jersey has closed primary elections, meaning that only voters who have registered with a party may vote in that party’s primary election (party affiliation can be declared when initially registering to vote on the Voter Registration form or can be declared or changed by filling out a Party Affiliation Change form). Municipal elections are generally held with the General Elections. However, some municipalities hold nonpartisan elections (in which officials do not affiliate with a particular party) on the second Tuesday in May.

The process of voting is relatively simple: once you enter the voting booth, you will see a screen on which there are options for each position that must be filled (you will receive a sample ballot in the mail before the election so you can familiarize yourself with the layout of the ballot beforehand). Before submitting your ballot with your choices, you can change your decision as many times as you like. Once the ballot has been submitted, however, it is final and cannot be changed. If you have any questions or concerns, poll workers are available to aid in the process.

VP of Advocacy Nancy Hedinger answers voter questions through hotline

LWVNJ VP of Advocacy Nancy Hedinger answers voter questions

In addition, you can call the League of Women Voters of NJ at 1-800-792-VOTE (8683) or contact@lwvnj.org with any questions, concerns, or comments. Lines at polling places are known to get very long, especially during particularly important elections such as general elections for the Governor or President. By law, if you are in line at your polling place when the polls close, you have a right to vote. In New Jersey, polls are open from 6:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.

If there is trouble with your registration, you may be asked to fill out a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot is a paper ballot that is administered in the following cases:

  • If your registration information is missing or is not complete in the poll book
  • If you moved from your registered address to another one in the same county and did not re-register at your new address
  • If you are a first-time voter and when you registered to vote you did not provide proper identification or the information you provided could not be verified and you did not bring your ID on Election Day (for your provisional ballot to be counted, you have until the close of business on the second day after the election to provide your county elections officials with the required ID information)
  • If you requested a vote-by-mail ballot but you never received it

Provisional ballots are counted only after they have been verified by the county’s Board of Elections.

Voting is a fundamental right and is vital for sustaining a democratic system, so it is very important to be aware of your rights when you go to vote. For first-time voters, familiarizing yourself with the ballot as well as knowing what to expect can be very helpful. The League of Women Voters of New Jersey has a wealth of information on voting rights, important dates and upcoming events, as well as a comprehensive “Frequently Asked Questions” page to help keep you informed.

Why I vote.

This is a guest post written by LWVNJ intern, Emily Garland.

When I was younger and had off from school on Election Day, my aunt would watch my sister and me. Part of that day off meant going to the polls. My sister and I would gather behind the curtain with my aunt and she would tell us which button to press. When it was time to cast her vote, there would be a slight skirmish between my sister and me over who got to press the red button. After all, an 8 year old’s memory of who pressed the red button last year is not very reliable.  I am very grateful that the right to vote and the act of voting was instilled in me at a very young age. I learned voting is more than just a right, it is also a duty.

 My senior year of high school was a highly formative time for my civic consciousness. I was fortunate enough to take 2 great classes with 2 great teachers. One was Government and Law Related Experiences (GALRE) and the other was A.P. Government. In GALRE, we would have various guest speakers come into our class and talk to us about their jobs and duties. These speakers were an assortment of people that played a role in politics, like councilmen, journalists, lawyers, state senators, and congressmen. Most of our grade was based on the quality of the questions we asked our guest speakers. This really encouraged me to learn about the political arena around me; it made it all the more tangible. I think this is a problem with voter turnout today, the disconnect between voter and those who serve the voter. Many people don’t see how their vote can make a difference, but it can. I vote because I believe it makes a difference.

In GALRE, we were required to work the polls on Election Day, which I still do to this day. Working the polls is another experience that has made the voting process more tangible and more consequential. It has also encouraged me to be informed about each and every election.

More importantly, working the polls has really illustrated to me who votes. These people who vote are the ones being heard and represented. I wish I would see more people like me, young and female, voting. Seeing a young person at the polls is so rare. I vote because I want more people like me to vote and be represented.

In AP Government, my teacher had a way of explaining things to our class in a way we had never thought of before. She told us that those we elect’s jobs are reliant upon those who vote. If you don’t vote, what should someone care about you since you have no say in whether or not they keep their job?

In a perfect democracy, everyone would come together and discuss their wants and needs, and no decision would be made final until everyone was satisfied. In a country that roughly 312 million call home, this isn’t very practical. So instead we have a republic where we choose people to represent our wants, needs, and priorities. I vote because as a young woman who is about to graduate college, I have specific needs and priorities that I want my government to hear and represent.  These include women’s rights, environmental protection and affordable higher education.  Since our country is so large and diverse, not everyone has these same priorities, but voting is the great equalizer that allows all these voices to come together and be heard. I vote because we live in a republic and I want my wants and needs represented.

I want a truly functioning and healthy republic. I believe the best way to accomplish this is to have complete voter participation. Although I am not everybody, I am still part of it. This is why I vote. To do your part, visit the League of Women Voters of New Jersey’s website for more information on voting and how you can register to vote.  Tuesday, October 16th is the last day to register to vote so don’t hesitate a moment longer to play your democratic part!

Why I Vote.

This is a guest post written by former LWVNJ intern, Christine Kaufman.

Why I Vote.

Voting is an untouchable privilege to millions of people around the world.  Just this year Egyptians finally got to vote in a presidential election that did not already have a clear cut winner.  70 year old Nadia Fahmy lined up with fellow Egyptian citizens, some who waited four hours, so she could vote for the first time in her life. Although some debate the fairness of our elections in the U.S., we are quite blessed to have the right to vote.  Americans spend so much time dwelling on what we do not have and forget to utilize the rights we were born with.

This is the first year I will be old enough to vote in a presidential election.  Unfortunately, I was born a few months late and was only 17 during the 2008 election.  In 2010, only 55.6% of eligible NJ citizens were registered to vote. Could it be that almost half of our population does not see the importance in voting?  Some of my friends would see that number and agree, everyone only has one vote and that one vote will not make much of a difference.  But what if everyone took their vote seriously?  If all of those non-believers came together and voted, they could easily change the outcome of any election.

I vote because I believe you cannot just sit back and complain about the government if you do not attempt to influence it.  I vote because this is the first year my younger brother is old enough to vote and I want to set a good example.  I vote because my father spends hours upon hours educating himself on current events since he takes his vote seriously.  I vote because my mother votes and because her mother had to earn the right to vote.  So let us all start taking our votes seriously.  Visit our website for more information on voting and how you can register to vote.

Deadlines Approaching for November General Election

Voter Registration WeekendElection Day is coming up!  New Jersey’s General Election will take place on November 8, 2011. This year, all 120 seats in the New Jersey Senate and Assembly are up for election.  The results of this very important election will determine fiscal and policy decisions that will impact our communities for years. It is crucial that every eligible resident registers and votes on November 8.  The polls will be open from 6 am – 8 pm.

The deadline to register to vote or to submit a change of name or address for the November 8 election is Tuesday, October 18. The registration form is available on the League of Women Voters of New Jersey’s website, www.lwvnj.org. If you are not sure if you are registered you can look up that information on the New Jersey Division of Elections website, www.njelections.org.

In New Jersey, any voter can vote by mail, using a “Vote by Mail” ballot (formerly absentee ballot) in any election, but the deadlines for applying are quickly approaching. Applications can be found on the League of Women Voters of New Jersey website, www.lwvnj.org. If you choose to send your application by mail, it must be received by your County Clerk no later than Tuesday, November 1. There is a 3 p.m. deadline on November 7 to apply for a “Vote by Mail” ballot in person at the County Clerk’s office.

For additional information or clarification about the November 8 General Election, go to www.lwvnj.org or call the League of Women Voters of New Jersey’s toll free voter information line, 1-800- 792-VOTE (8683).