TRENTON – The full Senate today approved a measure sponsored by Senate President Richard J. Codey that would erase more than 150 years of discrimination in New Jersey’s constitution by removing insensitive and discriminatory language that currently bars certain groups from voting rights. The Senate voted unanimously to approve SCR-134, which proposes a constitutional amendment that would replace the language that currently reads: “No idiot or insane person should enjoy the right of suffrage.”
“It’s time that we end this discriminatory chapter in our state’s constitution,” said Sen. Codey. “By replacing the law that sanctions this insensitive language, we can hopefully erase the stigma attached to mental and cognitive disabilities. The fact that this language has remained in our constitution for so long is a disgrace. I’m confident that the people of New Jersey will agree with me when we get this measure placed on the ballot.”
The Senate resolution calls for the following interpretive statement to be included alongside the ballot question: “Approval of this amendment concerning the denial of the right to vote would delete the phrase ‘idiot or insane person’ and replace that phrase with ‘person who has been adjudicated by a court of competent jurisdiction to lack the capacity to understand the act of voting’ in describing those persons who shall be denied the right to vote. The phrase ‘idiot or insane person’ is outdated, vague, offensive to many, and may be subject to misinterpretation. This constitutional amendment acknowledges that individuals with cognitive or emotional disabilities may otherwise be capable of making decisions in the voting booth and that their right of self-determination should be respected and protected in this regard. The amendment only denies the right of suffrage to those individuals determined by a court, on a case-by-case basis, to lack the capacity to understand the act of voting.”
The resolution now heads to the Assembly for approval. Sen. Codey is hopeful that the measure will be approved in time to make it on the November ballot, which would signal an end to an era of discrimination in New Jersey’s constitution.