The Institute’s President & CEO, Ryan P. Haygood writes

It was in 1844 that New Jersey first decided people with criminal convictions should lose the vote – the same year it restricted the vote to white men only in its Constitution.

On its face, the relationship between denying the vote to people with criminal convictions and Black history might not be evident. But the connection is clear.

Last year, more than 102,000 people in New Jersey were denied the right to vote because of a criminal conviction. Almost half were Black, though Black people comprise just 15% of New Jersey’s population.

This racial disparity is by design. It is a direct result of the racial discrimination in New Jersey’s criminal justice system, which has the worst racial disparities in America. A Black adult is 12 times more likely to be in prison than a white adult — the highest disparity in the nation, even though Black and white people commit most offenses at the same rate. By connecting voting to its broken criminal justice system, New Jersey literally imports this racism into its democracy.