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N.J. enacts law to restore voting rights, expunge criminal records

By
Clyde Hughes
One of the new laws restores voting rights for about 80,000 New Jersey residents on parole or probation. File Photo by Molly Riley/UPI
One of the new laws restores voting rights for about 80,000 New Jersey residents on parole or probation. File Photo by Molly Riley/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 18 (UPI) -- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed two bills Wednesday that restore voting rights for certain residents who have committed crimes and creates a "clean slate" petition that intends to expunge certain records.

One law will allow former felons to go through a simpler petition process to expunge their criminal records, as long as they have not committed an offense for 10 years and their conviction is not for serious crimes. It also automatically seals low-level marijuana convictions after offenders have served their sentences.

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The other law restores the voting rights of the 80,000 New Jersey residents on probation or parole. The law is similar to those in 16 other states and will take effect in March.

"Our administration is deeply committed to transforming our criminal justice system, and today we are taking a historic step to give residents impacted by that system a second chance," Murphy said in a statement.

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"[This law] will allow more New Jerseyans the opportunity to fully engage in our society."

Democratic presidential candidate and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker supports the new laws.

"Fixing our broken criminal justice system remains one of the most challenging issues plaguing our nation," he said in a statement. "These measures signed today by Gov. Murphy will help restore fairness to the criminal justice system and remove some of the fundamental barriers to re-entry."

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Murphy vetoed an expungement bill in August, saying it didn't fully address the issue and called for an automated process to clear past convictions and criminal records, along with $15 million for workers to help process the petitions. Legislators drafted a new bill that Senate President Steve Sweeney said adopted the changes Murphy asked for.

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