Voting Rights for Ex-Felons in New Jersey
Clients who were convicted of a felony often ask the attorneys at the Law Office of Randolph H. Wolf about their right to vote. In the United States, conviction of a felony carries collateral civil consequences apart from penal sanctions such as fines or incarceration. Thus, offenders may lose the right to vote, to serve on a jury, or to hold public office, among other things.
While both state and federal law impose civil disabilities following criminal conviction, state law governs removal of the right to vote, even if the conviction is for a federal rather than state offense. The laws governing the right to vote for those convicted of crimes vary widely by state. While some states allow felons to vote from prison, other states forever bar felons from voting. New Jersey’s law falls somewhere in between these two extremes.
In New Jersey, any person who is no longer in prison, on parole, or on probation as a result of a felony conviction can register to vote. See N.J.S.A. 19:4-1. Thus, any ex-felon who has satisfactorily completed the term of his or her sentence can register to vote in New Jersey. In addition, any person who has been charged with – but not yet convicted of – a crime with a crime can register to vote. Thus, in New Jersey, any person who is: (1) a United States Citizen; (2) 18 years of age by the next election; (3) a resident of New Jersey at least 30 days before the election; and (4) not serving a sentence, or on probation or parole as a result of a felony conviction can register to vote.
The number of Americans who cannot vote because they have been convicted of a felony continues to grow. In 2010, it was reported that 5.5 million voting-age citizens were disenfranchised because of their criminal records. Thus far, challenges to felon disenfranchisement laws as discriminating against African Americans and Latinos and thus denying them the equal right to vote have been unsuccessful.
For information on restoring your right to vote in New Jersey, see the State of New Jersey’s Voter Restoration Hanok at http://www.state.nj.us/state/elections/publications/voter-restore-hanok-060710.pdf.
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.