Voting rights restored for onetime New Jersey prison inmates

David Madden
December 18, 2019 - 3:15 pm
Governor Phil Murphy announces a five-point Computer Science for ALL State Plan and FY20 Funding Opportunities at Bridgewater-Raritan High School

Edwin J. Torres/NJ Governor’s Office

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NEWARK, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — New Jersey will soon adopt major criminal justice reform, including the restoration of voting rights to some 80,000 people on probation or parole.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed two measures into law at an event in Newark.

"First, we are allowing residents with low-level drug and non-violent offenses to have their record expeditiously expunged," the governor said. "Secondly, we are allowing more than 80,000 residents on probation or parole to once again have the ability to walk into a voting booth and have a say in our democracy." 

Sixteen other states and Washington, D.C. have similar voting rights laws on the books. The expungement provision also allows for automatic clearing of anyone’s non-violent record after living offense-free for a decade.

"I call this a 'second chance agenda' for a reason. We are a state that believes in second chances," Murphy added. "We are a state that’s stronger when we allow people to move forward and to fully use their God-given talents to their fullest potential."

Related: Murphy on New Jersey marijuana referendum: 'It’s better than nothing'

The governor pushed for the changes as one way to address racial disparities in prisons, where blacks outnumber whites by a ratio of 12-to-1. Opponents claimed the bills defied common sense because those incarcerated hadn’t fully paid for the crimes.

The changes take effect in three months.