Essex County voters who get turned down to vote next Tuesday, November 7, at their polling places can receive free legal assistance from students at Rutgers Law School in Newark.
If an Essex County resident goes to vote on Election Day and is not permitted to cast their ballot on the voting machine at a polling place, that voter can appear before a judge to obtain a court order allowing them to cast a vote.
Rutgers Law students will assist voters, accompanying them to court and representing them, at no cost, before a Superior Court judge.
“I think it’s important for a law school to offer this kind of service,” said Rutgers Law Professor Alexis Karteron, who directs the Constitutional Rights Clinic. “It’s important because the right to vote is sacrosanct.”
Rutgers Law students who are part of the Voter Assistance Project, will assist voters for free, a service that the law school has been providing to local residents for nearly a decade.
And to make it easier for frustrated voters, Rutgers Law students will be located at the Essex County Court Complex in Newark where voters have to go to make their appeal. “We will represent voters before the court to make application for a court order allowing them to vote on a voting machine,” said Karteron. The law students will be accompanied by a Rutgers Law professor throughout the day.
“Most people don’t realize their legal options,” said Kevin Cropsey, a student volunteer who is in his third year of law school. “There’s multiple avenues they can pursue to exercise their right to vote.”
Essex County residents who are not permitted to vote at their polling site have two choices, explained Rutgers Law Professor Charles Auffant, of the Community and Transactional Lawyering Clinic. That voter can appear before a judge and request a Court Order that he or she be allowed to vote at a polling place, or that voter can vote with a provisional ballot, which may not be counted.
“There are very few rights as important as the right to vote,” said Tony Martinez, another law student volunteer, who remarked on the importance of Tuesday’s gubernatorial race in New Jersey.
Citizens denied the right to vote who elect to appear before a judge must proceed to the Superintendent of Elections Office at the Hall of Records to be heard by a Superior Court Judge. The appeals are heard in the Veterans Courthouse and the Historic Courthouse in Newark.
This legal service is provided through the Voting Assistance Project, which was started by the Constitutional Rights Clinic at Rutgers to educate and assist residents of Essex County. This year, law students from the Constitutional Rights Clinic will be accompanied by law students from the Community and Transactional Lawyering Clinic to represent voters.
Law student Pauline Tarife said she volunteered because it was a chance to take what she’s learned in her law classes and put it into practice, “It was the perfect opportunity to make an impact.”