Gov. Phil Murphy wasn’t shy about patting himself and lawmakers on the back in his State of the State speech for making it easier both to register to vote and to cast a ballot. But he also wants to increase the number of registered voters by re-enfranchising felons on probation or parole, a controversial initiative. This marked Murphy’s first public support for the concerted effort, launched last year by a number of progressive advocacy groups and legislators, to undo a 175-year-old law that strips the right to vote from those convicted of serious crimes until they have completed their entire sentence. But the governor stopped short of fully embracing legislation — embodied in S-2100 and A-3456 — that would return the right to vote to those who are incarcerated. “Let’s open the doors to our democracy even wider,” Murphy said toward the end of his speech to a joint session of the Legislature on Tuesday. “Let’s restore voting rights for individuals on probation or parole, so we can further their reentry into society. And we further their reentry into society by allowing them to exercise the most sacred right offered by our society — the right to vote.”
… Murphy’s call came a day after activists gathered in Trenton to push for a number of progressive priorities, including expanding the right to vote.
“We must continue the work of building an inclusive democracy in the Garden State by restoring the right to vote to nearly 100,000 people with convictions,” said Ryan Haygood, president of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “The lesson to take from this important moment is that people who care about social and racial justice cannot afford to be timid. The heart of our democracy is at stake.”