State Sen. Ron Rice (D-Essex) on Thursday said he plans to introduce legislation next year that would allow convicted felons, those on probation, people on parole and incarcerated individuals to vote in elections, a bill that would dramatically alter current New Jersey law that prohibits those with criminal convictions from voting. “I will be calling on Governor-elect Phil Murphy and my colleagues to join me,” Rice said. “I ask for their support of our bill to sever the anti-democratic link between the right to vote and the criminal justice system.” A recent report from the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice found that New Jersey currently prohibits 94,000 individuals from voting due to criminal history or incarceration. The report found that a disproportionate amount of those disenfranchized by the voting law are African American. In New Jersey, about 15 percent of the total population is black but about 50 percent of those currently incarcerated in the state are black.
Since the bill has yet to be introduced, Murphy has not specifically weighed in on expanded voting rights. However, one of the plank’s of Murphy’s gubernatorial campaign was creating an environment in New Jersey’s criminal justice system that does not disproportionately target minority residents. Murphy served as a National Board member of the NAACP. In 2012, the NAACP launched a national campaign against policies that withhold voting rights from those with criminal convictions.
“I believe we have a governor who understands civil rights, I really believe that,” Rice said of Murphy. “This is going to be our civil rights governor. But we have to get it to his desk.”