NAACP v. Harvey
Voting After Criminal Conviction
On January 6, 2004, the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit challenging the denial of voting rights to persons on probation or parole in New Jersey. The plaintiffs raised claims under state law, arguing that because people of color are vastly overrepresented in the criminal justice system, our laws denying probationers and parolees the right to vote result in a denial of the New Jersey Constitution’s guarantee of Equal Protection under the law. The complaint was dismissed in a New Jersey state court, but the plaintiffs appealed that decision.
Most recently, on November 2, 2005, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey affirmed the lower court decision. In the decision, Judge Coburn held that the felony disenfranchisement statute in question was “specifically authorized by the New Jersey Constitution.” The court further noted that when “a statute is facially neutral, disparate impact is an insufficient basis for relief under our equal protection doctrine.” The full decision is available here.
The plaintiffs appealed the decision. However, the state’s Supreme Court denied their petition for certification, so the appellate decision stands.