ASSEMBLY, No. 5823

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

218th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED NOVEMBER 7, 2019

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman  SHAVONDA E. SUMTER

District 35 (Bergen and Passaic)

Assemblywoman  CLEOPATRA G. TUCKER

District 28 (Essex)

Assemblyman  JAMEL C. HOLLEY

District 20 (Union)

Assemblywoman  BRITNEE N. TIMBERLAKE

District 34 (Essex and Passaic)

 

Co-Sponsored by:

Assemblywomen Reynolds-Jackson, McKnight, Assemblyman Conaway, Assemblywoman Carter, Assemblyman Wimberly, Assemblywoman Quijano, Assemblyman Mukherji, Assemblywomen Chaparro, Jasey and Lopez

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Removes prohibition on voting by persons convicted of indictable offense who are on parole or probation.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning the right to vote by persons convicted of an indictable offense who are on parole or probation, supplementing chapter 4 of Title 19 of the Revised Statutes, and amending various parts of the statutory law.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    (New section) The Legislature finds and declares:

     a.     Voting is both a fundamental right and a civic duty.

     b.    In New Jersey, many people are denied the right to vote because they are on probation or parole for an indictable offense.

     c.     New Jersey first denied the right to vote, and permitted the Legislature to deny by law the right to vote, on account of a criminal conviction as part of its Constitution of 1844.

     d.    The law in its current form was enacted decades prior to the dramatic increases in incarceration experienced by New Jersey and the nation over the past 40 years.

     e.     Nearly half of those denied the right to vote because of a criminal conviction are Black, due to racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

     f.     There is no evidence that denying the right to vote to people with criminal convictions serves any legitimate public safety purpose.

     g.    Denying the right to vote to people with criminal convictions who are on parole or probation unnecessarily burdens law enforcement, election officials, and New Jersey residents. Administering New Jersey’s current law requires involvement from multiple public safety agencies, as well as State and local election officials, and average citizens need to understand principles of the criminal law in order to know who is or is not eligible to vote.

     h.    This act, P.L.   , c.   (pending before the Legislature as this bill), would conserve law enforcement resources and create a bright-line rule so that average citizens are not wrongly denied their right to vote due to confusion or mistake.

 

     2.    R.S.19:4-1 is amended to read as follows:

     19:4-1. [Except as provided in R.S.19:4-2 and R.S.19:4-3, every] Every person possessing the qualifications required by Article II, paragraph 3, of the Constitution of the State of New Jersey and having none of the disqualifications hereinafter stated and being duly registered as required by Title 19, shall have the right of suffrage and shall be entitled to vote in the polling place assigned to the election district in which he actually resides, and not elsewhere.

     No person shall have the right of suffrage--

     (1)   Who has been adjudicated by a court of competent jurisdiction to lack the capacity to understand the act of voting; or

     (2)   (Deleted by amendment.)

     (3)   (Deleted by amendment.)

     (4)   (Deleted by amendment.)

     (5)   (Deleted by amendment.)

     (6)   Who has been convicted of a violation of any of the provisions of this Title, for which criminal penalties were imposed, if such person was deprived of such right as part of the punishment therefor while serving a sentence of incarceration according to law unless pardoned or restored by law to the right of suffrage; or

     (7)   Who shall be convicted of the violation of any of the provisions of this Title, for which criminal penalties are imposed, if such person shall be deprived of such right as part of the punishment therefor while serving a sentence of incarceration according to law, unless pardoned or restored by law to the right of suffrage; or

     (8) Who is serving a sentence [or is on parole or probation] of incarceration as the result of a conviction of any indictable offense under the laws of this or another state or of the United States.

     A person who will have on the day of the next general election the qualifications to entitle him to vote shall have the right to be registered for and vote at such general election and register for and vote at any election, intervening between such date of registration and such general election, if he shall be a citizen of the United States and shall meet the age and residence requirements prescribed by the Constitution of this State and the laws of the United States, when such intervening election is held, as though such qualifications were met before registration.

(cf: P.L.2010, c.50, s.17)

 

     3.    Section 16 of P.L.1974, c.30 (C.19:31-6.4) is amended to read as follows:

     16.  a.  The Secretary of State shall cause to be prepared and shall provide to each county commissioner of registration forms of size and weight suitable for mailing, which shall require the information required by R.S.19:31-3 in substantially the following form:

VOTER REGISTRATION APPLICATION

     Print clearly in ink. Use ballpoint pen or marker.

     (1)   This form is being used as:

     [ ]    New registration

     [ ]    Address change

     [ ]    Name change

     (2)   Name:.....................................................

            ...............Last       First         Middle

     (3)   Are you a citizen of the United States of America? []Yes []No

     (4)   Will you be 18 years of age on or before election day? []Yes [] No

     If you checked 'No' in response to either of these questions, do not    complete this form.

     (5)   Street Address where you live:

.........................................................

     Street Address          Apt. No.

.........................................................

     (6)   City or Town County Zip Code

     (7)   Address Where You Receive Your Mail (if different from above):

     ............................................................

     (8)   Date of Birth:

     ......................................................

       Month     Day      Year

     (9) (a) Telephone Number (optional)......................

            (b) E-Mail Address (optional).....................

     (10) Name and address of Your Last Voter Registration

     ............................................................

     ............................................................

     ............................................................

     (11) If you are registering by mail to vote and will be voting for the first time in your current county of residence, please provide one of the following:

     (a)   your New Jersey driver's license number:................................

     (b)   the last four digits of your Social Security Number....................

     OR submit with this form a copy of any one of the following documents: a current and valid photo identification card; a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, pay check or any other government or other identifying document that shows your name and current address. If you do not provide either your New Jersey driver's license number or the last four digits of your Social Security Number, or enclose a copy of one of the documents listed above, you will be asked for identification when voting for the first time, unless you are exempt from doing so under federal or State law.

     (12) Do you wish to declare a political party affiliation? (Optional):

            [] YES. Name of Party:

            [] NO. I do not wish to declare a political party affiliation at this time.

     (13) [] I wish to receive a Mail-in Ballot for all future elections, until I request otherwise in writing.

     (14) Declaration - I swear or affirm that:

     I am a U.S. citizen.

     I live at the above address.

     I will be at least 18 years old on or before the day of the next election.

     I am not [on parole, probation or] serving a sentence of incarceration due to a conviction for an indictable offense under any federal or State laws.

     I UNDERSTAND THAT ANY FALSE OR FRAUDULENT REGISTRATION MAY SUBJECT ME TO A FINE OF UP TO $15,000, IMPRISONMENT UP TO FIVE YEARS, OR BOTH PURSUANT TO R.S.19:34-1.

     ...........................................................

     Signature or mark of the registrant      Date

     (15) If applicant is unable to complete this form, print the name and address of individual who completed this form.

...................................................

            Name

...................................................

            Address

     In addition, the form may include notice to the applicant of information and options relating to the registration and voting process, including but not limited to notice of qualifications required of a registered voter; notice of the final day by which a person must be registered to be eligible to vote in an election; notice of the effect of a failure to provide required identification information; a place at which the applicant may indicate availability for service as a member of the district board of elections; a place at which the applicant may indicate whether he or she requires a polling place which is accessible to individuals with disabilities and the elderly or whether he or she is legally blind; a place at which the applicant may indicate a desire to receive additional information concerning voting by mail; and if the application indicates a political party affiliation, the voter is permitted to vote in the primary election of a political party other than the political party in which the voter was affiliated previously only if the voter registration form with the change of political party affiliation is filed prior to the 50th day next preceding the primary election. The form may also include a space for the voter registration agency to record whether the applicant registered in person, by mail or by other means.

     b.    The reverse side of the registration form shall bear the address of the Secretary of State or the commissioner of registration to whom such form is supplied, and a United States postal permit the charges upon which shall be paid by the State.

     c.     The Secretary of State shall cause to be prepared registration forms of the size, weight and form described in subsection a. of this section in both the English and Spanish language and shall provide such forms to each commissioner of registration of any county in which there is at least one election district in which bilingual sample ballots must be provided pursuant to R.S.19:14-21, R.S.19:49-4 or section 2 of P.L.1965, c.29 (C.19:23-22.4).

     d.    The commissioner of registration shall furnish such registration forms upon request in person to any person or organization in such reasonable quantities as such person or organization shall request. The commissioner shall furnish no fewer than two such forms to any person upon request by mail or by telephone.

     e.     Each such registration form shall have annexed thereto instructions specifying the manner and method of registration, and the vote by mail option specified on the form, and stating the qualifications for an eligible voter.

     f.     The Secretary of State shall also furnish such registration forms and such instructions to the Director of the Division of Workers' Compensation, the Director of the Division of Employment Services, and the Director of the Division of Unemployment and Temporary Disability Insurance in the Department of Labor and Workforce Development; to the Director of the Division of Taxation in the Department of the Treasury; to the Executive Director of the New Jersey Transit Corporation; to the appropriate administrative officer of any other public agency, as defined by subsection a. of section 15 of P.L.1974, c.30 (C.19:31-6.3); to the Adjutant General of the Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs; and to the chief administrative officer of any voter registration agency, as defined in subsection a. of section 26 of P.L.1994, c.182 (C.19:31-6.11).

     g.    All registration forms received by the Secretary of State in the mail or forwarded to the Secretary of State shall be forwarded to the commissioner of registration in the county of the registrant. Each such form, and any registration form received otherwise by a commissioner of registration, shall be forwarded to the county clerk if the vote by mail option is selected on a form.

     h.    An application to register to vote received from the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission or a voter registration agency, as defined in subsection a. of section 26 of P.L.1994, c.182 (C.19:31-6.11), shall be deemed to have been timely made for the purpose of qualifying an eligible applicant as registered to vote in an election if the date on which the commission or agency shall have received that document in completed form, as indicated in the lower right hand corner of the form, was not later than the 21st day preceding that election.

     i.     Each commissioner of registration shall make note in the permanent registration file of each voter who is required to provide the personal identification information required pursuant to this section, as amended, and R.S.19:15-17, R.S.19:31-5 and Pub.L.107-252 (42 U.S.C.s. 15301 et seq.), to indicate the type of identification provided by the voter and the date on which it is provided. Prior to the June 2004 primary election, when such a newly registered voter seeks to vote for the first time following his or her registration, the voter will be required to provide such personal identification information. Beginning with the June 2004 primary election, when such a newly registered voter seeks to vote for the first time following his or her registration, the voter will not be required to provide such information if he or she had previously provided the personal identification information required pursuant to this section. The required information shall be collected and stored for the time and in the manner required pursuant to regulations promulgated by the Secretary of State.

     j.     The Secretary of State shall amend the voter registration application form if necessary to conform to the requirements of applicable federal or State law.

     k.    In the event that the name of any political party entered on the voter registration form by a voter who wishes to declare a political party affiliation is not legible, the commissioner of registration shall mail the voter a political party declaration form and a letter explaining that the voter's choice was not understood and that the voter should complete and return the declaration form in order to be affiliated with a party.

(cf: P.L.2018, c.72, s.3)

 

     4.  R.S.19:31-17 is amended to read as follows:

     19:31-17.  a.  Once each month during the first five days thereof, the chief State election official shall notify the commissioner of registration of a county of any information which the official shall have received during the previous month from the United States Attorney under subsection g. of section 8 of Pub.L. 103-31 (42 U.S.C. s. 1973gg-6) concerning the conviction of a resident of the county of a crime under the laws of the United States, or any other official action relating to such a conviction, that would constitute grounds for disfranchisement of the person while serving a sentence of incarceration under the laws of this State. 

     b.  Once each month during the first five days thereof the prosecutor of the county shall deliver to the commissioner a list of the names and addresses of all persons and their ages and offenses who have been convicted during the previous month of a crime which would disfranchise them while serving a sentence of incarceration under  the laws of this State, including therewith the date upon which judgment of conviction was entered against the person, and also including a statement of any sentence of incarceration imposed by the court during the month upon any person so convicted during that month or any previous month; provided, however, if the address of the person so convicted is located in a county other than the county in which the conviction was obtained the said prosecutor shall mail a report of such conviction to the proper election official of the county in which the address of such person is located. 

     c.  Upon the receipt of the notice prescribed under subsection a. of this section or the list prescribed under subsection b. hereof, the commissioner shall make such investigation as is necessary to establish to his satisfaction that the convicted person who was sentenced to a period of incarceration is registered to vote in the county.  If it is so established, the commissioner shall cause the registration and record of voting forms of such convicted and sentenced registrant to be transferred to the conviction and incarceration file.  In the event the person so convicted and incarcerated is not registered at the time the list or report is received, the commissioner shall cause an index card to be made out and inserted in its proper place in the master index file bearing the information received from the State election official or a county prosecutor, and the person so convicted and incarcerated shall be denied the right to register while serving a sentence of incarceration.  Such persons upon the restoration of their citizenship rights or upon being pardoned shall be required to register or reregister before being allowed to vote. 

(cf: P.L.1994, c.182, s.15) 

 

     5.  R.S.19:34-4 is amended to read as follows:

     19:34-4.  If a person convicted of a crime which disfranchises him while serving a sentence of incarceration shall vote at any election, unless he shall have been pardoned or restored by law to the right of suffrage, he shall be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.

(cf: P.L.2005, c.154, s.24)

 

     6.    R.S.19:34-25 is amended to read as follows:

     19:34-25.  a. If a person shall, directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person in his behalf, give, lend or agree to give or lend, or shall offer, promise or promise to procure, or endeavor to procure, any money or other valuable consideration or thing to or for any voter, or to or for any person, in order to induce any voter to vote or refrain from registering for any election, or shall corruptly do or commit any of the acts in this section mentioned because of any such voter having voted or refrained from voting at an election, or registered or refrained from registering at an election, he shall be guilty of a crime of the third degree.

     Bribery of member of election board; acceptance.  b. Whosoever shall, directly or indirectly, make or give any money or other thing of value to any member of the district board because of his membership on such board, or when it shall appear that such money or other thing of value is made or given to such member because of his membership on the board, except as hereinbefore provided as his legal compensation for service on the board, shall be guilty of a  crime of the third degree.

     Any member of a district board who shall, by himself, or by any other person in his behalf, receive any money or other thing of value because of his membership on such board, or when it shall appear that such money or other thing of value is accepted or received by such member because of his membership on the board, except as hereinbefore provided as his legal compensation for service on the board, shall be guilty of a crime of the third degree.

     Promising office or employment.  c. A person who shall directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person in his behalf, give or procure, or agree to give or procure or offer or promise to procure, or endeavor to procure any office, place or employment to or for any voter, or to or for any person on behalf of such voter, or to or for any other person, in order to induce such voter to vote or refrain from voting, or to register or refrain from registering, or shall corruptly do any act as above because of any voter having voted or refrained from voting, or having registered or refrained from registering for any election, shall be guilty of a crime of the third degree.

     Acceptance of bribe by voter.  d. Any voter who shall directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf, receive, agree or contract for any money, gift, loan or valuable consideration, office, place or employment for himself or for any other person for voting or agreeing to vote, or for refraining or agreeing to refrain from voting at any election, or for registering or agreeing to register, or for refraining or for agreeing to refrain from registering for any election, shall be guilty of a crime of the third degree.

     Bribery of delegates. e. If a person shall, directly or indirectly, give, offer or promise to give any sum or sums of money or any valuable thing in action, victuals, drink or preferment or other considerations, by way of fee, reward, gift or gratuity, or other valuable present or reward to obtain, procure or influence the opinion, behavior, vote or abstaining from voting for the election of any delegate to any convention of any political party, to nominate any candidate for member of the legislature, for member of congress, for electors for president and vice president of the United States, for governor, or for any candidate for any office in any county or municipality; or if any person being a delegate to any political convention to nominate candidates for any of the offices named in this title shall directly or indirectly, ask for, accept, receive or take any sum or sums of money, or other valuable consideration by way of fee, reward, gift or gratuity, or other valuable consideration for the giving or refusing to give his vote at any such convention, the person so offering, asking, or receiving shall be guilty of a crime of the third degree.

     Bribery at election.  f. Whoever shall, directly or indirectly, give, furnish, supply or promise, or cause to be given, furnished, supplied, offered or promised, to any person or persons, any money, service, preferment or valuable thing with the intent that such money or valuable thing or any other money, service, preferment or valuable thing shall be given, offered, promised or used, by any person or persons, by way of fee, reward, gift or gratuity, for giving or refusing to give any vote of any citizen, at any election of any public officer, state, county or municipal, to be held therein, or of any member of congress, of electors for president and vice president of the United States, or at any election of any delegate or delegates to any political convention to be held for the nomination of any of the officers above, or by way of gift, gratuity or reward, for giving or withholding the vote of any delegate at any such convention, shall be guilty of a  crime of the third degree.

     Inducing voters. g. A person who shall, directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person in his behalf, give, lend, or agree to give or lend, or procure, or agree to procure or offer or promise to procure, or endeavor to procure, any money or other valuable consideration or thing, or any office, place or employment to or for any voter, or to or for any person, in order to induce such voter to vote or refrain from registering or voting at any election, or shall corruptly do or commit any of the acts in this section mentioned, because of any voter having voted or refrained from voting or having registered or refrained from registering for any election, shall be guilty of a crime of the third degree.

     Contributions for use in bribing. h. A person who shall give, advance or pay, or cause to be given, advanced or paid, any money or other valuable thing to any person, or to the use of any person, with the intent that such money or other valuable thing, or any part thereof, shall be expended, or used for bribery of voters, or for any other unlawful purpose at any election, or who shall knowingly pay, or cause to be paid money to any person wholly or in part expended in bribery of a voter at any election, shall be guilty of a crime of the third degree.

     Receiving rewards.  i. A person who shall, directly or indirectly, by himself, or by any other person on his behalf, receive, agree or contract for any money, gift, loan or valuable consideration, office, place or employment for himself or for any other person for voting or agreeing to vote, or for refraining or agreeing to refrain from voting at any election, or for registering or agreeing to register, or for refraining or for agreeing to refrain from registering for any election, shall be guilty of a crime of the third degree.

     Gift, or promise of, for certain purposes. j. No person shall give or agree to give for the purpose of promoting or procuring or for the purpose of opposing or preventing the election of a candidate for public office, or for the purpose of promoting or procuring or for the purpose of opposing or preventing the nomination of any person as a candidate for public office, any money or any valuable thing to be used for any of the following purposes:

     1.    To provide or give or to pay, wholly or in part, the expense of giving or providing any meat, drink, entertainment or provision to or for any person for the purpose of influencing that person or any other person to give or refrain from giving his vote at any election, or because of any such person or any other person having voted or refrained from voting.

     2.    To provide for the payment of rent for or for the purpose of providing and fitting up any clubroom for social or recreative purposes, or providing for uniforms for any organized club.

     3.    To provide for the payment for the insertion in any newspaper or magazine of any article tending to influence any person to give or refrain from giving his vote to any candidate or candidates at any election; or to provide for payment for the distribution of any newspaper or magazine wherein any such article is printed; or to provide for payment of the printing or of the  distribution of any circular, handbill, card, pamphlet or statement tending to influence any person to give or refrain from giving his vote to any candidate at any election; but this prohibition shall not be construed to prohibit the printing and distribution of paid advertisements, which advertisements shall be indicated by the words "This advertisement has been paid for by        "  (inserting the true name and address of the person or persons paying for the same); nor shall it be construed to prohibit the printing and distribution of circulars, handbills, cards, pamphlets or statements which shall have printed on the face thereof the true name and address of the person or persons paying for the printing and distribution thereof, which fact shall be indicated by the words "The cost of the printing and distribution of this circular (or as the case may be) has been paid by " (inserting the true name and address of the person or persons paying for the same).

     Accepting gifts. k. No person shall accept any money or other valuable thing, the payment of which is prohibited by paragraph "j" of this section.

     Penalty.  l. Any person who shall violate any of the provisions of paragraphs "j" and "k" of this section shall be guilty of a crime of the third degree, and shall for the first offense be disfranchised [for a period of five years from the date of conviction] while serving a sentence of incarceration, and for any subsequent offense shall be [perpetually] disfranchised while serving a sentence of incarceration, and in addition thereto the court in which such conviction is obtained, may in case of a subsequent conviction, impose upon the person so  convicted the punishment now prescribed by law for a crime of the second degree.

(cf: P.L.2005, c.154, s.43)

 

     7.    R.S.19:34-46 is amended to read as follows:

     19:34-46. In addition to any penalties provided for violation of any of the provisions  of this title, the court imposing such penalty may add thereto that such  offender be thenceforth disfranchised as a voter while serving a sentence of incarceration and disqualified to hold any  office of trust or profit within this state for such length of time as such  court deems proper.

(cf: R.S.19:34-46)

 

     8.    Section 33 of P.L.1964, c.134 (C.19:58-33) is amended to read as follows:

     33.  Any person who knowingly violates any of the provisions of this act, or who, not being entitled to vote under this act, fraudulently votes, or attempts to vote thereunder or enables, or attempts to enable another person, not entitled to vote thereunder, to vote thereunder, or who prevents or attempts to prevent by fraud the voting of any person legally entitled to vote under this act, or who knowingly certifies falsely in any paper required to be executed under this act, shall be guilty of a crime of the third degree and upon conviction thereof shall be subject, in addition to such other penalties as are authorized by law, to disenfranchisement while serving a sentence of incarceration unless and until pardoned or restored by law to the right of suffrage.

(cf: P.L.2005, c.154, s.59)

 

     9.    Section 8 of P.L.1976, c.23 (C.19:59-8) is amended to read as follows:

     8.    a.  Each county clerk shall send by air mail, with each ballot for an overseas voter or overseas federal election voter transmitted by such means, appropriate printed instructions for its completion and return, together with an inner and outer envelope similar to that required as to civilian vote by mail ballots with a legend on the inner envelope stating "Ballot for Overseas Voter" or "Ballot for Overseas Federal Election Voter," as appropriate.

     b.    Each county clerk shall send to each overseas voter or overseas federal election voter requesting that a ballot be sent to that voter by electronic means all appropriate printed instructions for its completion and return. The printed instructions sent to each such voter shall include a certificate substantially the same as provided for in section 9 of P.L.1976, c.23 (C.19:59-9).

     c.     The printed instructions sent with each ballot to an overseas voter or overseas federal election voter, including instructions sent by electronic means, shall include a copy of the following notice:

     PENALTY FOR FRAUDULENT VOTING

     Any person who knowingly violates any of the provisions of the Overseas Residents Absentee Voting Law, or who, not being entitled to vote thereunder, fraudulently votes or attempts to vote thereunder or enables or attempts to enable another person, not entitled to vote thereunder, to vote fraudulently thereunder or who prevents or attempts to prevent by fraud the voting of any person legally entitled to vote under this act, shall be guilty of an indictable offense, and upon conviction thereof shall be subject, in addition to such other penalties as are authorized by law, to disenfranchisement while serving a sentence of incarceration unless and until pardoned or restored by law to the right of suffrage.

(cf: P.L.2017, c.39, s.11)

 

     10.  Section 28 of P.L.2009, c.79 (C.19:63-28) is amended to read as follows:

     28.  a.  Any person who knowingly violates any of the provisions of P.L.2009, c.79 (C.19:63-1 et al.), or who, not being entitled to vote thereunder, fraudulently votes or attempts to vote thereunder, or enables or attempts to enable another person not entitled to vote thereunder to vote fraudulently thereunder, or who prevents or attempts to prevent by fraud the voting of any person legally entitled to vote under this act, or who shall knowingly certify falsely in any paper required under this act, or who, at any time, tampers with any ballot or document used in an election or interferes with the secrecy of the voting of any person, is guilty of a crime of the third degree, and upon conviction thereof shall be subject, in addition to such other penalties as are authorized by law, to disenfranchisement while serving a sentence of incarceration, unless and until pardoned or restored by law to the right of suffrage.

     b.    Any person who knowingly aids and abets another in violating any of the provisions of this section is guilty of a crime of the third degree and upon conviction thereof shall be subject, in addition to such other penalties as are authorized by law, to disenfranchisement while serving a sentence of incarceration, unless and until pardoned or restored by law to the right of suffrage.

(cf: P.L.2015, c.84, s.6)

 

     11.  This act shall take effect 90 days following the date of enactment.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill removes the prohibition on voting by persons who are on parole or probation due to a conviction for an indictable offense under any federal or State laws.

     Under Article II, Section I, paragraph 7, the New Jersey Constitution authorizes the Legislature to deny the right to vote to persons convicted of crimes designated by the Legislature. Under N.J.S.A.2C:51-3, a person who is convicted of a crime is disqualified from “voting in any primary, municipal, special or general election as determined by the provisions of R.S.19:4-1.”  In relevant part, R.S.19:4-1 denies the right to vote to any person “who is serving a sentence or is on parole or probation as a result of a conviction of any indictable offense under the laws of this or another state or of the United States.” In New Jersey, indictable offenses are crimes of the fourth through first degree. 

     Under the bill, persons who are on parole or probation would be permitted to vote. However, persons who are serving a sentence of incarceration would continue to be disenfranchised until they complete the term of incarceration. Accordingly, this bill also amends statutory provisions that require the commissioner of registration in each county to compare voter registration records with criminal conviction records to prevent disenfranchised persons from voting and registering to vote (N.J.S.A.19:31-17); and criminalize the act of voting while disenfranchised (N.J.S.A.19:34-4). Under the bill, these statutes would apply only to disenfranchisement while a person is serving a sentence of incarceration.