Spurred by false Internet reports, emails are spreading like wildfire containing incorrect information about what New Jersey voters need to do in order to be eligible to vote in next month's national election. Voting rights advocates are now trying to set the record straight.

Toni Zimmer, League of Women Voters of New Jersey president, Photo Credit: Kevin McArdle)
Toni Zimmer, League of Women Voters of New Jersey president, Photo Credit: Kevin McArdle)

Here are the facts. New Jerseyans have until October 16th to register to vote. They only need to re-register if they've changed their name or address or upon completion of a jail sentence, parole or probation because of a felony conviction.

The erroneous email in question says, "Dear friends and Family: Please pass the word along. The rules have changed. If you have not voted since Nov. 2008, you must re-register to vote 30 days prior to Nov. or you will not be allowed to vote in the upcoming National election. A great many people do not know this. Please tell your colleagues, friends and family to check their voter registration cards and see if you are properly registered."

Toni Zimmer, President of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, says, "Some people who've been given this information believe it so it's almost like a virus. One person thinks they're doing something good so they tell another person…..The League has a toll-free voter assistance hotline and it's been ringing off the hook with callers asking if they need to re-register to vote, or if they need to show photo identification at the polls. This type of false information has the potential to disenfranchise eligible voters, and that's why we're here today, to set things straight. The League does not want to see even one voter stay at home on Election Day because of this type of misinformation."

"Misinformation is flying around and causing unnecessary confusion among eligible voters," says Kerry Maragaret Butch, the League's executive director. "For the League of Women Voters of New Jersey confusion is concerning. Our fear is that confusion will lead to non-participation."

In New Jersey, it is only permissible for a poll worker to ask a newly-registered voter to present identification if that voter did not provide the required identification information on the original registration form, or if the identification information was indicated on the form but could not be verified.

Parts of New Jersey share the same media market with Pennsylvania, adding to the confusion over voter laws.

"Voting rights are under attack in this country and voters of color are disproportionally disenfranchised," says James Harris, President of the New Jersey NAACP. "We have struggled for too long and have worked too hard to secure our rights to see even more African-Americans and other minorities kept from the polling place because of rumors, misinformation, and because of voter suppression tactics in other states."

Acting ACLU-NJ Executive Director Ed Barocas says, "There has been a lot of press coverage this election season about Pennsylvania's restrictive voter identification law. Generally in New Jersey, unless you are a newly-registered voter, you should not be required to show identification when you go to the polls."

The League and the ACLU-NJ have teamed up to print and distribute 20,000 cards to inform voters of their rights and how to avoid problems when casting a ballot on Election Day. The cards contain a voters' bill of rights and other critical information, such as how to vote by mail-in ballot, use of provisional ballots and what to do if a voter encounters a problem while trying to cast a ballot. It also provides answers to frequently asked questions, including information about identification and finding a polling place. The cards are available for download at the League's website  and ACLU's website.

There's also a video that walks voters through every step of the voting process. It was created to help to first-time voters who might be unsure of what occurs once they enter the polling place. The video is available at www.lwvnj.org and www.hallnj.org.

On Election Day, November 6th, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., the League of Women Voters of New Jersey will staff its toll-free voter assistance Hotline to answer questions from voters and offer assistance with problems they may encounter at the polls. The Hotline is open year-round during regular business hours to address questions from the public. The number is 1-800-792-VOTE (8683).

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