Turner To Ban Votes By Criminals At Psychiatric Centers

TRENTON – Senator Shirley K. Turner today said she is drafting legislation to ban criminals at psychiatric centers from voting.

“We need to close the loophole that allows serious sex offenders or even murderers to cast votes,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “Voting is a sacred privilege for those who uphold the laws of this State and country – not something for serious criminals.”

Senator Turner said she has asked the Office of Legislative Services to draft a bill that would close whatever loophole exists in State law that allowed 41 residents of the Ann Klein Forensic Center at Trenton Psychiatric Center to cast absentee ballots in Tuesday’s election.

“We should have a clear-cut State law that prohibits criminals from voting, period,” Senator Turner said. “We want to enable and encourage everyone with the right to vote to take part in the election process, but that should not include those who have sidestepped prison by gaining access to psychiatric centers.”

Published reports cited 41 residents of the Ann Klein facility in Ewing Township as having sent in absentee ballots. Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello said legislation was needed to prevent “incarcerated mass murderers and sex offenders” from voting.

The media accounts said eight of the 41 votes were disallowed because seven were on parole for life and ineligible to vote and the eighth was notorious mass murderer Howard Unruh of Camden. Election law experts say current state statutes allow residents of state facilities to vote if they are sanctioned based on competency reviews on a case-by-case basis.