COMPLAINT SAYS RADBURN BY-LAW CHANGES WERE MEANT TO THWART NEW VOTING PROTECTIONS FOR PLANNED COMMUNITIES

On January 23, New Jersey Appleseed filed a complaint on behalf of Radburn United, a community group that is asking for the state’s help in preserving the voting rights of those who reside there.

Founded in 1929 as one of the first planned communities in the United States, Radburn is a private, unincorporated association within Fair Lawn, with over 3,000 people living in a mixture of single-family homes, townhouses, two-family houses, and an apartment complex.

Continue reading COMPLAINT SAYS RADBURN BY-LAW CHANGES WERE MEANT TO THWART NEW VOTING PROTECTIONS FOR PLANNED COMMUNITIES

PAST TIME FOR A PAPER TRAIL

I voted today as I hope most of you did.

Pressing those buttons didn’t take much time but it was the culmination of a long process that began last year, with learning about the candidates, reading up on the issues and giving serious thought to the choices presented.

I fulfilled my civic duty. How I wish the state would do its part.

Continue reading PAST TIME FOR A PAPER TRAIL

ORANGE SCHOOL BOARD VOTE TO GO FORWARD

A last ditch effort by the current Orange school board to block a public referendum on whether board members should be chosen by voters rather than the Mayor fell short on Tuesday, when the Appellate Division denied the board’s emergent motion to enjoin the vote and reverse an Oct. 20 trial court decision allowing it.

Presiding Appellate Division Judge Jack Sabatino, along with Judge Mary Whipple, agreed with the reasoning in the Oct. 20 opinion by the lower court judge, Thomas Vena, of Essex County Superior Court.

As a result, voters will get to vote on Nov. 7 whether to change from a Type I school district, with an appointed board, to a Type II school district, with an elected one.  It will be the second time they get to do so. Last year, they overwhelmingly approved it, with about 77 per cent voting in favor. In April, however, Vena declared the vote null and void, finding that the wording of the ballot question and accompanying interpretive statement did not provide sufficient information about the ramifications of the change.

The school board sought to rely on statutes that require a five year wait before a referendum can be resubmitted to the voters. NJ Appleseed Executive Director Renée Steinhagen, attorney for the Committee for an Elected School Board, who sought the referendum, argued in response that the restriction did not apply in this instance, where the referendum succeeded but was subsequently nullified.

The appeals court agreed, stating “We agree with the trial court that the public policies of N.J.S.A. 18A:9-4 and 9-5 against repetitive unsuccessful referenda do not pertain to this distinctive situation.”

See my prior post for more information about the case, City of Orange Township Board of Education v. City of Orange, ESX-L-6652-17.

EMERGENT APPEAL TO DECIDE IF ORANGE SCHOOL BOARD QUESTION GOES TO VOTERS

With less than two weeks until voters go to the polls on Nov. 7, whether City of Orange voters will get to choose an elected school board as opposed to an appointed one is once again in the hands of the courts.

Last November, voters in a public referendum overwhelmingly favored being able to choose their own school board members rather than having them picked by the Mayor, which is the current system. But a state court judge set aside the result, finding they were not provided with sufficient information to understand the ramifications of the change.

Continue reading EMERGENT APPEAL TO DECIDE IF ORANGE SCHOOL BOARD QUESTION GOES TO VOTERS

Same Day Registration

By Renee Steinhagen

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Since our inception, NJ Appleseed has focused its efforts on legal electoral reform issues. Most recently, we have characterized our efforts in this area as “Empowering Democracy,” including two distinct projects: Enabling the Franchise (improving access to and encouraging participation in elections, campaign finance reform initiatives and promoting alternative forms of voting) and Facilitating Initiative and Referendum. For the past four to five years, NJ Appleseed served as co-counsel with the Rutgers Clinic (representing the Rutgers Student Union Association, NJ Citizen Action, the Latino Action Alliance and several individual voters) in a constitutional challenge to New Jersey’s advanced election registration system. The theory behind the case was that in light of the implementation of the State’s electronic Statewide Voter Registration System (with its capacity to verify voters identifying information within 24 hours) and its employment of provisional ballot affirmation statements, which are effective registration forms, the State had no valid interest justifying the burden imposed by such requirement on an individual’s right to vote under the State Constitution. The litigation went to the Appellate Division twice, before our Petition for Certification before the NJ Supreme Court was denied.

I would like to convert our litigation theories into several mini-white papers that would support and frame a legislative campaign to secure Same-Day Registration through our current provisional ballot system. Such papers would focus on (1) the burden imposed on voters by advanced registration, in particular low-income voters; (2)the administration of same-day registration schemes in other States; (3) the logistics of voting in NJ including the challenge system, the mailing of ballots, the counting of mail and provisional ballots, and other administrative features; and (4) the capacity of the current SVR system to detect in person fraud or double voting.

NJ Appleseed would draft a proposed bill amending the current election code and generate a grass-roots campaign, with its partners, across the State to generate public support for permitting Same-Day registration by employing our current provisional ballot system. Depending on the outcome of the November 2017 election, I anticipate that we could get this change enacted by the middle of 2018 if Democrats prevail in the Legislature and Governor’s office.

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NEW JERSEY JUSTICES ASKED TO HEAR LANDMARK VOTER REGISTRATION CASE

UPDATE: Since this article was written, the New Jersey Supreme Court has denied an appeal, leaving the issue for the Legislature to address.

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Permitting Election Day Registration for Voters

In a test case with nation-wide implications, the New Jersey Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether it is constitutional to require voters to register prior to Election Day now that electronic voter databases have made it much easier and faster to determine eligibility.

The plaintiffs in Rutgers Student Assembly v. Middlesex County Board of Elections seek to convince the Court to strike down the New Jersey law requiring that voters to  register at least 21 days before an election.

Continue reading NEW JERSEY JUSTICES ASKED TO HEAR LANDMARK VOTER REGISTRATION CASE

Voting Rights Groups Call for Election Day Registration

Plaintiffs

Rutgers Constitutional Rights Clinic, ACLU-NJ, and New Jersey Appleseed File Appellate Brief Arguing State Cannot Justify 21-Day Registration Blackout Contact: Deborah Howlett, ACLU-NJ Communications Director, 973-854-1728 Allison Peltzman, ACLU-NJ Senior Communications Specialist, 973-854-1711 Professor Frank Askin, Rutgers School of Law-Newark, 973-353-3239 Renee Steinhagen, New Jersey Appleseed, 973-735-0523

Continue reading Voting Rights Groups Call for Election Day Registration

NJ Appleseed scores major victory for fair elections and exposes the practice of “vote harvesting”

Re-post from HudsonReporter.com | Written by Dean DeChiaro

When the Mile Square Taxpayers Association, a group of developers and landlords long opposed to Hoboken’s tenant-friendly rent control codes, withdrew a legal challenge to the results of a November referendum last week, they conceded a victory to tenants who want to keep rent control in place. But it had another effect – it shined a light on a dubious election practice that has plagued Hoboken politics for years.

The court proceedings, in which MSTA attempted to argue that the Hudson County Board of Elections should not have invalidated around 300 vote-by-mail ballots, placed a microscope on those types of ballots, which have long been a source of controversy here.

For years, political organizations have influenced elections in advance by sending workers into senior citizen and low-income housing buildings to encourage residents to fill out absentee ballots. Seven years ago, the state made it easier for people to fill out ballots by mail by allowing people to do so without having to give a reason.

Read more: Hudson Reporter – Hoboken’s legacy of vote by mail schemes Rent control referendum results stand and shed light on dubious election pastime