This story was originally published by TAPinto.
A board member of the League of Women Voters of Monmouth County was honored recently at a special Thanksgiving Recognition Luncheon hosted by the NJ Reentry Corporation (NJRC) on Friday, November 18. The board member, Annette Scott, was honored for her work with the League of Women Voter Monmouth’s Reenter-Register-Vote program.
The event was held at the Governor’s Reentry Training and Employment Center in Kearny, NJ by the NJRC. The NJRC is a “non-profit agency with a social mission to remove all barriers to employment for citizens returning from jail or prison.” The NJRC works with former inmates and employers to keep communities “safer, healthier, and better employed.”
The League of Women Voters is a 102-year-old nation-wide, nonpartisan organization that originally encouraged women's suffrage and assisted women with the voting process. Now, the league’s goal is to keep voters informed and to “empower voters by defending democracy.” The league has hosted a number of events, with one of the most recent being a virtual forum for candidates running to represent Congressional District 4 back in September.
The Reenter-Register-Vote was founded and is directed by Scott, and encourages formerly incarcerated citizens, known as “returning citizens,” to exercise their right to vote. Founded in 2019, Scott’s program now helped over 5,000 citizens vote and “planted seeds of interest that she hopes will grow into full participation in our democracy.”
“New Jersey law enfranchises former felons, including those on parole or probation, but they must (re-) register. Our volunteers engage clients in a conversation designed to ensure they understand their voting rights and appreciate the power of their vote,” a LWV document read. “Even when a returning citizen declines to register, we believe the conversation creates an opening for that possibility in the future. Before COVID-19 restrictions, we were registering up between 15 and 25 returning citizens a week.”
According to a document from the League of Women Voters, many of the league’s partner organizations and returning citizens were unaware that former felons can have their voting rights restored. As of March 2020, those rights also apply to those on parole or probation.
Additionally, the League of Women Voters have cited that the reason for the “information gap” is due to the racial disproportion in state incarceration facilities. “This information gap is especially dis-empowering to people of color. New Jersey’s incarcerated population has the greatest racial disparity of any state in the nation,” a LWV document reads. “Blacks make up just 15% of our overall population, but close to 62% of those incarcerated. People of color are disproportionately disadvantaged by inequities in the state’s criminal justice system and this disadvantage leads in practice, if not in law, to their disenfranchisement.”
Scott’s Reentry program has created a partnership between League of Women Voters and the NJRC, with seven locations across the state. With locations in Passaic, Bergen, Essex, Union, Middlesex, Monmouth, and Ocean counties, all but one are directed by League of Women Voters volunteers.
To learn more about the League of Women Voters and Annette Scott’s Reenter-Register-Vote program, visit their website. To learn more about the NJ Reentry Corporation, click here.
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