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Governor signs bill to restore voting rights to about 80,000 convicts in New Jersey

Posted at 11:45 AM, Dec 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-19 13:44:59-05

TRENTON, N.J. -- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed two bills into law Wednesday that will allow convicts out on parole or probation to vote and many may be able to clear their criminal records of low-level offenses.

"I’ll be able to vote next year," said Ronald Pierce, who was formerly incarcerated and is now a voting rights advocate.

The voting rights bill for New Jersey convicts will allow 80,000 people in the state to rejoin the voting rolls in March.

The second bill signed Wednesday will allow residents to wipe their records clean if they have stayed out of trouble for 10 years and have not committed the most serious crimes.

"I am proud to sign one of the most progressive expungement laws in the nation, which will allow more New Jerseyans the opportunity to fully engage in our society," said Gov. Murphy.

Damon Durden knows what the stigma of a criminal record feels like.

"To have a criminal record constantly haunt you even though you’re doing everything to be apart of society, you feel like you’re not accepted," said Durden, who serves as field director for the Newark Community Street Team.

Durden ran into trouble with the law in his youth and said he was given a second chance when he became employed by the city of Newark. He works to help young people steer clear or recover from run-ins with the criminal justice system.

"You can live your dreams as others get to live their dreams," said Durden.

New Jersey will also create a task force to focus on expungements and how to handle them in the years to come.

This story was originally published by Christie Duffy at WPIX.