Institute Associate Counsel Scott Novakowski writes for the Star Ledger:
On Nov. 7, New Jersey voters will head to the polls and cast their ballots to elect state legislators and a new governor, officials who will make critical decisions on issues that affect the lives of New Jerseyans – including who has the right to vote.
More than 94,000 residents will be barred from voting on Election Day because of a criminal conviction. Under New Jersey’s anti-democratic law, the right to vote is denied to anyone serving a sentence for a criminal conviction, which includes those who are incarcerated as well as those who have been released but are on parole or probation. Three quarters of those disfranchised are living in the community while completing a term of parole or probation
New Jersey’s criminal disfranchisement law dates back to 1844, over 170 years ago at a time when racial exclusion was the law of the land. In 1844, slavery was legal and practiced in our state. In 1844, the Fourteenth Amendment had not yet guaranteed equal protection of the law to black residents. And, in 1844, black residents were prohibited from voting in New Jersey, thanks to an 1807 state law that limited the franchise to white males only. (In fact, New Jersey was the first state in the Northeast to limit the franchise to white males.)