Trenton – Legislation sponsored by Senator Ronald Rice and Senator Sandra B. Cunningham, which would restore the right to vote to anyone on parole or probation convicted of a state or federal crime, advanced from the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee today.
“Black communities across America are over policed and are disproportionality imprisoned. Black Americans represent half of those who are barred from voting as a result of a criminal conviction,” said Senator Rice (D-Essex). “We live in a democratic society where the right to vote of our most sacred right. If we want people to return and be productive members of society, we must return to them this fundamental rights.”
“African Americans fought long and hard to gain access to the ballot box and still our criminal justice system systematically disenfranchises them,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “When people are released from prison they do their best to integrate back into their community. Voting is an integral part of being an engaged member of the community and a contributing member of society. There is no reason we should deny those on probation or parole of that basic right.”
Under the bill, S-4260, anyone who is on parole or probation would be permitted to vote. Only those who are serving a sentence of incarceration would continue to be disenfranchised until they complete their sentence.
Currently, individuals convicted of indictable offenses lose the right to vote until they complete their entire sentence, including probation or parole. In New Jersey, indictable offenses are crimes of the first through fourth degree.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, felons never lose their right to vote in two states – Maine and Vermont. In 14 other states and Washington, D.C., those who have been convicted of felonies can’t vote while incarcerated but are automatically re-registered upon release. In January 2019 Florida voters approved a ballot measure for people on parole, probation and in prison to have their voting rights automatically restored upon completion of their sentence.
The bill was released from committee by a vote of 3-2, and will head to the full Senate for further consideration.