Assuming favorable wifi conditions I think Stephen Danley will be live-streaming a different event from Cherry Hill – today at 3pm (details to come). But I also wanted to flag this for you, tonight also Cherry Hill. New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and partners will host a community forum at the Unitarian Universalist Church there, on the growing movement to restore voting rights to people in prison, on parole, and on probation for a felony.
This follows the introduction of a bill [S2100 / A3456] sponsored by senators Ronald Rice & Sandra Cunningham and assemblywomen Shavonda Sumter & Cleopatra Tucker, to restore voting rights to people on parole, on probation, and in prison. New Jersey currently denies the right to vote to more than 94,000 people with criminal convictions—more than the total population of Trenton. The effort to change this is endorsed by over 90 organizations, along with the mayors of Newark, Hoboken, Jersey City, Plainfield, and Bloomfield.
“The right to vote is the purest expression of democracy, and no one in a democracy should ever lose that power. Some rights are too important to take away from citizens, and voting is one of them. New Jersey has the worst Black-white disparity in incarceration rates, making it all the more problematic to use the criminal justice system as a tool for determining whether citizens can have a voice in civic life. We need to end the undemocratic practice of stripping people of their right to vote, and we need to end it now.” – ACLU-NJ Exec Dir Amol Sinha
Community Forum on the Movement to Restore Voting Rights to People on Parole, on Probation, and in Prison
When: Tonight, Thursday, April 5 at 7:00 PM
Where: Unitarian Universalist Church of Cherry Hill – 401 N. Kings Highway in Cherry Hill
Speakers: Assemblyman Arthur Barclay; Institute President and CEO Ryan Haygood; Judge Karen Williams, U.S. Magistrate Judge for the District of New Jersey; Patricia McKernan, Chief Operating Officer of Volunteers of America Delaware Valley and President of the Reentry Coalition of NJ; Ronald Pierce, Rutgers student and Institute intern who is currently denied the right to vote; Michael Coley, Heart-to-Heart; Pastor Kenneth Scott, St. James Apostolic Temple – Camden
“As a result of racial disparities throughout the criminal justice system, half of those denied the right to vote are Black, even though Black people make up only 15 percent of the state’s total population. To erase this moral stain on our democracy, New Jersey must restore the right to vote to people on probation, on parole, and in prison.” – Ryan P. Haygood, Institute President and CEO
“All citizens deserve the right to vote. People who have been incarcerated should not be deprived the fundamental right of participation in our democracy. Our system demands that all people are represented and be allowed to decide who our elected officials are. Voting is a basic freedom for which patriots for hundreds of years have given their lives.”
– Rohn Hein, Co-Chair of UU Faith Action NJ Criminal Justice Task Force, a co-sponsor
According to the Institute’s report, We Are 1844 No More: Let Us Vote, New Jersey enacted its first broad ban on voting by people with criminal convictions in 1844, the same year it adopted a state constitution that restricted voting to white men and a time when slavery was still legal here. “Nearly 175 years later, New Jersey continues to deny voting rights to people with criminal convictions,” says Institute Associate Counsel Scott Novakowski, primary author of the report. “If we agree that voting is a fundamental right, as the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed, then there is simply no legitimate reason to deny that right. We do not deny people in prison the right to practice their religion. Why would we deny them the right to vote?”
Event sponsors: ACLU of New Jersey*, the Cherry Hill African American Civic Association, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, NAACP New Jersey State Conference, the Reentry Coalition of New Jersey, Rutgers Law School, the Rutgers Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, Unitarian Universalist Church of Cherry Hill, UU Faith Action NJ Criminal Justice Task Force, and Volunteers of America Delaware Valley
* A member of my household is an ACLU-NJ board member. I’d be writing about this even if he wasn’t.