May 11, 2005 – Nearly half of New Jersey county election offices do not consistently follow voting registration laws regarding former convicts, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey has found.
In fact, as the group learned through a survey, nine of the state's 21 county offices illegally blocked registrations of people who have completed their sentences and are eligible to vote. The results of the survey were published Monday.
Surveyors questioned elections officials about voting registration rules and practices. They found that former convicts and government agencies both were ignorant of the fact that New Jersey law returns voting rights to those who have served their time in prison, on parole or on probation. Some offices required documentation that is not available to ex-convicts.
The ACLU-NJ also discovered that county offices and the state Division of Elections lacked clear policies and procedures, as well as proper training of temporary workers, leading to confusion and unnecessary delays for those who attempted to register to vote.
Among other recommendations, the ACLU-NJ urged the state to remove the Division of Elections from the Attorney General's office and render it autonomous, with authority and enforcement powers over elections and voter registration.