NJ Politics Digest: Democratic Bill Hopes To Let Inmates Vote

Roughly 94,000 New Jersey residents are currently prohibited from voting because they are serving prison sentences or are on probation or parole. Ian Waldie/Getty Images

A bill introduced by Democratic lawmakers on Monday would restore voting rights to about 94,000 residents either in prison, on parole or probation.

If approved, the state would be the third in the nation to return the franchise to those in prison, according to a report on NorthJersey.com. Vermont and Maine have already restored full voting rights to people with convictions.

While it is not law in Virginia, last year, Virginia’s then-Gov.Terry McAuliffe used his authority to restore voting rights to more than 168,000 former felons.

In New Jersey, the campaign to restore voting rights is being led by the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus. Proponents of the measure say laws that prohibit inmates from voting disproportionally disenfranchises African-Americans. Current law allows former inmates to vote, after they have completed their sentence and fulfilled the financial obligations of their sentence.

Under the new plan, inmates could vote in the district where they lived prior to incarceration using mail-in ballots.

While Gov. Phil Murphy’s transition team had endorsed returning voting rights to those on parole and probabtion, the recommendation did not include those currently incarcerated.

Murphy released a statement saying he looked forward to working with the legislature to expand voting enfranchisement but did not specifically say if he supported allowing inmates to vote, according to NJ.com.

Opponents of the plan say losing the right to vote is one of the punishments for breaking the law.

“Do we really believe that murderers and rapists who are serving prison sentences should be allowed to influence elections and public policy?” Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Bergen, said in a statement.

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NJ Politics Digest: Democratic Bill Hopes To Let Inmates Vote