Tag Archives: voting rights

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.

 

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Women’s Equality Day: The Journey Continues

The following is written by Toni Zimmer, President, League of Women Voters of New Jersey.

“We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all the civil and political rights that belong to citizens of the United States, be guaranteed to us and our daughters forever.” – Susan B. Anthony, Declaration of Rights for Women, July 1876

Today we celebrate Women’s Equality Day, the historic anniversary of August 26, 1920, when the 19th Amendment was ratified giving American women the right to vote. But please, don’t pop those champagne corks just yet – there is no denying that there is still so much more to be done, as well as undone.

Once again, women find themselves in a position where their right to make personal health care choices is being severely compromised and, in some cases, absolutely denied. In a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the court stated that corporations with religious beliefs that condemn the use of contraceptives are exempt from covering the cost of contraceptives to employees under their health care plans. We must continue to stand up for our rights to have control over how we choose to manage our own personal health care needs.

One of the most egregious decisions handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court came to us last year, when it struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This decision gave nine states, mostly in the South, the ability to change their election laws without advance federal clearance. Section 4 was created to determine which states would need approval from the Justice Department or a federal court to make major or minor changes to voting procedures, such as relocating polling places or redrawing electoral districts. We applaud the vigilance and efforts on the part of the U.S. Attorney General to protect the voting rights of citizens in these affected states. However, we must continue to implore Congress to pass a new bill to determine which states would be covered under the special provisions of the Voting Rights Act once again.

A number of issues of inequality still cast an oppressive shadow over many women today. One of the most pressing is a quest to obtain equal pay for women. Today, women earn approximately 77 cents of one dollar that men earn. We know that two-thirds of households in the U.S. depend on a woman’s income to survive. In April, the Paycheck Fairness Act of 2014 failed to pass by six votes in the U.S. Senate. It was the third time in recent years that wage equality legislation failed to pass. The number of working women continues to grow, but the inequity does not change. We must continue to call on Congress to do the right thing and pass legislation that will help hard working women secure equal pay for equal work.

One of the most crucial solutions to resolving our ongoing quest to attain absolute equality, is for women to become more directly involved in government. Unfortunately, there has only been a slight increase in the number of women running for legislative office in New Jersey and collectively throughout the country. According to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), there are significant advantages realized when women succeed in government: “The American public rates women above or equal to men in seven of eight traits considered crucial for leadership – women are perceived as outgoing, hardworking, honest, intelligent, creative, compassionate, and ambitious. Women are ranked higher in public polling than men in five of seven key policymaking areas, including working out compromises, keeping government honest, standing up for what they believe in, and representing constituents interests.”

Let’s remember that Women’s Equality Day is also a time to celebrate our successes. So, lean back and close your eyes. Let your mind wander to that historical day in 1920 when women received the right to vote. Feel the joy, the emotion, the hope that filled the hearts of so many. Take genuine pride in knowing that the League of Women Voters was there to usher them across a new terrain, and has been present ever since to help ensure democracy, and equality, for all. Then join us as we keep working toward a brighter future.

 

Women’s Equality Day: The March Continues

The following blog is written by Toni Zimmer, President of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey.

After participating in the historic 50th Anniversary March on Washington in our nation’s capital this weekend, I still feel the giddiness and euphoria of being part of such an important and powerful event. As the first African American president of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, I felt especially proud to stand with so many other organizations to celebrate this commemorative March. The collective voice and sense of purpose from the thousands of people who graced the Mall could not be mistaken:  We must have equality and justice for all, we must protect women’s rights, we must preserve our voting rights.

ImageToday we celebrate another historic moment in time. It’s Women’s Equality Day, the historic anniversary of August 26, 1920, when the 19th Amendment was ratified giving American women the right to vote. The League of Women Voters of New Jersey joined in the original 1920 effort to launch this successful transition.  But please, don’t kick up your heels just yet – that old cliché still holds true:  “A woman’s work is never done,” especially when it comes to ensuring that voting rights for women, and men, are forever granted and protected.

 This is especially relevant today because last June, the Supreme Court gutted Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a decision that gave nine states, mostly in the South, the ability to change their election laws without advance federal clearance. Section 4 was created to determine which states would need approval from the Justice Department or a federal court to make major or minor changes to voting procedures, such as relocating polling places or redrawing electoral districts.

ImageThe negative effects of the Supreme Court decision were realized almost immediately. Before the ink on the 5 to 4 decision was barely dry, Texas placed a previously banned voter identification law into effect, and announced that their bogus redistricting maps were valid and no longer needed federal approval. We must implore Congress to pass a new bill to determine which states would be covered, once again, under the special provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Despite the disappointing and unfortunate setback rendered by the Supreme Court decision, I believe it is important for us to remember the efforts of the strong women who maintained their focus and stood up more than 93 years ago to ensure that equality for women was realized through the passage of the 19th Amendment.

We might also take a moment to admire the many strong and principled women of today, such as Justice Ruth Ginsburg. In her dissent from the bench regarding Section 4, Justice Ginsburg drew on the words of Dr. King: 

“The great man who led the march from Selma to Montgomery and there called for the passage of the Voting Rights Act foresaw progress, even in Alabama,” she said. “ ‘The arc of the moral universe is long,’ he said, but ‘it bends toward justice,’ if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion.”

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Steve Kornacki and Myrna Perez to Speak at the League of Women Voters of New Jersey 60th Biennial Convention

The League of Women Voters of New Jersey will hold their 60th Biennial Convention on May 4, 2013 at the Conference Center at Mercer in West Windsor. Myrna Perez, Senior Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, and Steve Kornacki, political journalist will speak during the lunch banquet.

Myrna Perez works on a variety of voting rights related issues, including redistricting, voter registration list maintenance, and access to the ballot box. Most recently, Ms. Perez was present when the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments from Shelby County, Alabama that a key provision of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional and should be struck down. Ms. Perez represented the Brennan Center, which has filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to keep preclearance. She believes that the Voting Rights Act “remains a vital piece of our national moral commitment to never permit racial discrimination in elections again” and will discuss the Voting Rights Act and the case at Convention.

Convention will also feature Steve Kornacki, new host on MSNBC’s “UP” and senior political writer at Salon.com. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, New York Daily News, New York Post, Boston Globe, Daily Beast, and at Capital New York. Mr. Kornacki spent three years in New Jersey, chronicling the state’s political world and co-hosting a weekly show on News 12 New Jersey.

Perez and Kornacki will speak during the lunch banquet at 11:30 am. The lunch is open to the public. The cost is $35 and registration is required. To register please visit the League of Women Voters of New Jersey’s website or call 609-394-3303 for more information.

Everything You Need to Vote!

This is a guest post written by Emily Garland, League of Women Voters of New Jersey intern.

The following is the first of a series of blog posts titled “Why Do I Vote?” In the series, different League members, myself included, explain why they vote. It is our hope that through reading the blog posts of the civically engaged, others will want to follow suit.

One of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey‘s goals is to expand voter participation. To expand participation, we try to make it as easy and accessible as possible. If this series has inspired even one person to register to vote, we can say it was successful. But in all honesty, we definitely want more than just one person to be inspired to get to the polls on November 6th. So, if you want to vote but don’t know where to start, here are some links that can help get you started!

Here is a page that has all the information you could need about voting in New Jersey. Questions answered include, Who can register? How do I register? Where do I register?  How do I vote by mail? When should I re-register?

To register to vote click on your county, print out the form, complete the form and mail it in.

October 16th is the last day to register to vote.

In New Jersey, you do not need a reason to apply for a vote by mail ballot! If you are going to be too far from your polling location on Election Day, or simply do not feel like leaving your house, here is a link for vote by mail applications, formally known as absentee ballots. You simply click on your county, print out the form, fill it out, and mail it in.

To receive a ballot by mail, the application must be received by your county clerk by October 30th (seven day prior to the election).

A voter may also apply in person for a vote by mail ballot to the county clerk until 3:00 pm the day before the election – November 5th.  You can find your County Clerk and Commissioner of Registration on this page.

All vote by mail ballots must be returned to the Board of Elections by 8 pm on Election Day, November 6th.

If you think you are registered, but aren’t sure you can find out here.

Now that you are registered, and planning to vote the next step is to find out your polling location.

All NJ polls are open at 6 am and close at 8 pm. If you are in line at the polling location at 8 pm, you still have the right to vote.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and the League of Women Voters of New Jersey has created a voting rights card that lists all your voting rights.

Of course, if you still have questions you can call the League of Women Voters of New Jersey’s Voter Assistance Hotline at 1-800-792-VOTE (8683)

Stay tuned for another post tomorrow…