By Renee Steinhagen
NJ Appleseed’s Role in the New Jersey and Greater Newark Coalitions
Since our inception, NJ Appleseed has focused its efforts on health care issues, providing a legal voice to communities and organizations seeking to establish health care as a social right by preserving hospitals as charitable community assets, improving access to quality, affordable health care services, and diminishing racial disparities in the health status of Newark residents. Our work in this area can be characterized as three distinct projects: The Community Health Assets Protection Project (representing the community in administrative and court procedures to ensure that hospital boards satisfy their fiduciary duties to the public when seeking to merge or sell their charitable health assets to a for-profit entity or another nonprofit with a different mission); a Consumer Advocacy Project and a Transforming Healthcare Delivery Project.
Under the rubric of our Consumer Advocacy Project, NJ Appleseed has participated on the leadership team of the NJ Healthcare Coalition since its founding in 2006. As the only legal organization participating in the Coalition (Legal Services of NJ informally participates but is not a member), NJ Appleseed services the Coalition, its individual members and the public generally with respect to legal policy issues, including drafting and analyzing legislation, preparing regulatory comments, and preparing white papers and consumer manuals with respect to legal rights, such as the right to appeal insurance denials of benefits. We are now considering whether to convert the New Jersey Sentinel website (which was product of a joint project between NJ Appleseed and Seton Hall Law School, funded by RWJ Foundation to evaluate essential benefits) into a comprehensive consumer health care website that provides information directly to New Jersey consumers on how to navigate the insurance, health care (providers), and public health systems in the State, and perhaps the website could deal with occupational health and safety as well as environmental health issues.
Since the closure of St. James and Columbus hospitals in Newark, NJ Appleseed’s Executive Director has been a board member of the Greater Newark Healthcare Coalition (consisting of a wide array of providers, including hospitals, physicians, federally qualified health centers, nurses, etc.), which was established as the Hospital CEO Working Group as a result of those closures. The Coalition is a planning organization that oversees various projects that seek to transform the healthcare system so it is more equitable, socially and racially just, and effective in improving the health status of Newark residents. NJ Appleseed is the Chair of the Legal and Advocacy Subcommittee, which is the one Board committee that draws mainly from persons who are not represented on the board. As one of three non providers on the board –- representatives from NJIT and Seton Hall Law School are the other two –- NJ Appleseed is trying to bring the consumer perspective to the Board’s decision making, and to encourage community participation in the organization’s activities.
We are seeking resources to support our activities in these two coalitions.
By Renee Steinhagen
ince 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.
UPDATE: Since this article was written, the New Jersey Supreme Court has denied an appeal, leaving the issue for the Legislature to address.
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
A lot of attention has been focused on the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would carry crude oil across four western states, damaging the environment and disturbing Native American historical and cultural sites.
Similar battles over proposed pipelines are taking place right here in New Jersey and recent developments will at least delay two of those projects and hopefully allow for more public input on their impact.
Continue reading COURT ORDER DO-OVER ON PINELANDS PIPELINE APPROVAL
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
Written by Cheryl Fallick
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Docket No. L-2375-11. Victor A. Afanador argued the cause for appellants/cross-respondents James Farina and City of Hoboken (Lite DePalma Greenberg, LLC, attorneys; Mr. Afanador, of counsel and on the briefs; Marissa L. Quigley, on the briefs).
Charles X. Gormally argued the cause for appellants/cross-respondents Mile Square Taxpayer Association 2009, Inc. and Gina DeNardo (Brach Eichler, L.L.C., attorneys; Mr. Gormally, of counsel and on the briefs; Sean A. Smith, on the briefs).
You can read the full ruling here