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Neptune Women leads effort to help formerly incarcerated register to vote

This story was originally published in TAPinto Asbury Park.

Annette Scott of Neptune is on a mission to help the formerly incarcerated understand their voting rights as they re-enter society, ensuring that those who wish to may cast their ballots in the June 6 statewide primary election. 

Each Wednesday Scott, a League of Women Voters of Southern Monmouth County (LWVSMC) board member, conducts a one-hour course at NJ Reentry's office, 72 Morris Ave., Neptune City, where those on parole or probation in New Jersey are given the opportunity to register to vote and decide if they would like to become poll workers. 

"I inform them of their voting rights," Scott said, adding, "I explain how understanding their voting rights in New Jersey can help them, their community and their families."

During the weekly classes, Scott assisted by Donna Lembo helps formerly incarcerated citizens in their registration process by reviewing and mailing each application. 

In March 2018, Scott formed a partnership between the LWVSMC and the Monmouth County chapter of the New Jersey Reentry Corporation to launch the Reenter-Register-Vote (RRV) initiative, which makes the voter registration process a regular part of a citizen's reentry into society once their sentence is complete.

Scott's program has now helped over 5,000 citizens vote and has successfully “planted seeds of interest that she hopes will grow into full participation in our democracy."

Twice a year before the primaries in June and the general election in November, Scott offers voter registration to those in parole facilities in Cumberland, Passaic, Camden and Mercer counties. 

"When I tell them they can cast their vote and I see the look on their face and how they want to fill out the voter application — I'm happy," she said. 

Scott also visits Morris and Camden jails to complete voter registration with detainees who have not been sentenced. She hopes to soon be offering this service in Monmouth County.

Scott said she is passionate about educating individuals on the importance of voting in all elections, not just presidential ones. 

"Too many think that their vote doesn't count or that they can only vote for the president," Scott explained. "I educate them on the history of voting rights and encourage them to exercise their right to vote in local elections, such as for the mayor of their town, council members, state senators, and board of education." 

The New Jersey Reentry Corporation is a nonprofit agency with a social mission to remove all barriers to employment for citizens returning from jail or prison. Former Gov. Jim McGreevey is chairman of the nonprofit's board.

The League of Women Voters is a 102-year-old nationwide, nonpartisan organization that originally encouraged women's suffrage and assisted women with the voting process. 

The league's goal today is to keep voters informed and to "empower voters by defending democracy."