Voting Rights in New Jersey: What You Should Know About How to Exercise Them and Protect Them
Perhaps the most important right we have as citizens of the United States is voting, and while voting differs in each state, New Jersey upholds strict voting rights. Even so, certain groups and individuals have tried to take away rights from those who should be allowed to vote. If you believe this to be the case with you or someone close to you, it is to your advantage to contact the Woodbury New Jersey attorneys at Craig Annin & Baxter.
Who Can Vote? To vote in an upcoming election, an individual must first register, but to do so, they must meet all of the requirements, which are as follows:
- Be a citizen of the U.S.
- Be 18 years of age by the time of the next election
- Reside in New Jersey for at least 30 days before the election
- Cannot be a felon currently serving a sentence for on a conviction
If you meet the above criteria, you are eligible to register to vote. Applications can be submitted in person at the offices of the County Commissioners of Registration, Municipal Clerk offices or the offices of the Motor Vehicle Commission. In addition, applications are available for download online, but they must be mailed to the Division of Elections. All registrations must be submitted at least 21 days before the election.
- Why was I “purged” from the voting rolls and how can I get back on?
Election officials overseeing voters rolls try to keep their records accurate – updating them for deaths confirmed to them from monthly vital statistics reports from the state, municipalities, and the motor vehicle commission. The State receives death records weekly from the Social Security Administration and the NJ Department of Health. That information is uploaded into the Statewide Voter Registration System and then the counties use that information to remove voters from the rolls. If you share the same name as a parent and their death has been reported your name could have been removed by accident. Also if you never registered to vote, but believed you had and have been signing in under your parent’s name all these years – you need to register to vote. If you have moved from one municipality or voting district to another your voting registration likely did not travel with you unless you notified the Superintendent of elections in your county. When you moved can make a difference in whether you are allowed to vote at all or whether you can vote in the new or old district. To validate your presence in the county and that you are eligible to vote, elections officials may mail something to you, if the mail is returned your voting registration may be discontinued. The sample ballot you receive in the mail a week before an election is an important piece of mail because it confirms you are on the voting rolls at that address as well as informs you about the offices on the ballot and any public questions so you can be an informed voter. It also gives you the location of your polling place and the district you vote in. I always bring my sample ballot to my polling place and suggest you do too. If someone challenges your right to vote, that sample ballot can provide key information confirming your eligibility.
- How can I lose my right to vote an how can I get it back?
A new law in New Jersey goes into effect in March 2020 permitting individuals who lost their right to vote because they were on probation or parole for an indictable offense to be able to vote again. https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2018/Bills/A9999/5823_I1.PDF Losing the right to vote when you are convicted of a felony had been a life-long consequence, taking away that right even after a sentence had been served or if the felon was placed on probation. New Jersey and several other states, taking steps to reintroduce felons into the community, have provided for a restoration of voting rights as part of the reconciliation between a felon and the community. https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/felony-disenfranchisement-a-primer/ If you were registered to vote before you were convicted, you must complete a new voter registration form (linked above) once you have served your time. If you are a pre-trial detainee or on bail pending appeal, you do not lose your right to vote. If you have any questions, please contact your County Commissioner of Registration.
- Deployed military personnel or civilians living outside the United States still can vote and there are special methods to make that happen. https://www.state.nj.us/state/elections/vote-military-and-overseas.shtml
- College students also may vote where they are living while attending school. https://www.state.nj.us/state/elections/vote-college-students.shtml If you are in college, you have the option to register from your college address or your parent’s address. There are good reasons for registering and voting at either your school address or your parent’s address, but keep in mind, the final choice is yours.
Contact the Woodbury New Jersey attorneys at Craig Annin & Baxter. We can help you through the process of protecting your right to vote effectively and expeditiously.