In many parts of the country, individuals convicted of committing felonies either lose their voting rights permanently or must petition to have their rights restored once they have completed their sentences. In New Jersey, an ex-felon can register to vote after they have completed the terms of their custodial sentence and supervised release as long as they are U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Those convicted of misdemeanor offenses in the Garden State can register to vote even while they are still incarcerated.
Registering to vote
Ex-felons in New Jersey who would like to exercise their right to vote can obtain a registration form from a local election office, their municipal clerk’s office, a Motor Vehicle Commission office or any agency that provides social services to state residents. Voter registration forms can also be requested online, by mail or by calling a toll-free telephone number. Once the form has been received and completed, it can be returned by mail or delivered to a county voter registration office in person. Ex-felons who were registered to vote prior to their convictions must register again after their release.
Individuals who register to vote in New Jersey must prove their identity. This can either be done when the voter registration form is returned or in person on the day of the election. To prevent any mix-ups or misunderstandings on election day, criminal defense attorneys may recommend attaching proof of identity, such as a driver’s license or Social Security card, to the voter registration form. If there are problems at the polling station, ex-felons can either request a provisional ballot, call the New Jersey voter hotline or ask the election judge to issue a court order.
Help for ex-felons
Experienced criminal defense attorneys may be able to help their clients complete voter registration forms and other official documents. Attorneys might also file petitions for expungement on behalf of individuals who were convicted of certain drug offenses or any offender who has not been in trouble with the law for many years.