Home>Campaigns>Recently naturalized citizen who thought she was able to vote can’t because she didn’t register, judge rules

The Morris County Courthouse in Morristown, New Jersey.

Recently naturalized citizen who thought she was able to vote can’t because she didn’t register, judge rules

ACLU sought to aid Morris County woman who was told by government officials she could vote and didn’t know she had to register

By David Wildstein, November 04 2022 7:43 pm

A Superior Court judge today sustained New Jersey’s law requiring voters to register three weeks before Election Day, turning down a bid from recently naturalized Morris County women who testified that a series of interactions with the government officials led her to believe she was eligible to vote.

Shushing L., who became a U.S. citizen in January, 22 years after emigrating from Taiwan, said she got the impression she would signed up to vote after a meeting at the U.S. Social Security Administration in Parsippany.

“They said I can vote but they didn’t tell me I need to register,” she told the court through an interpreter.  “I have never seen a blank (registration) form.  I don’t speak English.

Her attorney, Liza Weisberg of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Jersey, argued that Shushing L. made a good faith effort to fulfill her duty as a new citizen as a voter.

“There is no compelling state interest to prevent that,” Weisberg said, noting that in New Jersey, election laws are to be liberally construed.

The state attorney general’s office opposed the move to allow Shushing L. to be added to the voter rolls, arguing that the deadline to register to vote was “statutorily prescribed” and that the woman didn’t take any steps to complete a voter registration form.

“It doesn’t appear the events here meet the definition of good faith,” said Michal Czarnecki, a deputy attorney general.  “It just appears it was an unfortunately misunderstanding.  The position of the state is that Miss L. is not permitted to vote.”

But Weisberg said that Shushing L. “reasonably relied on the statements of several government officials.”

“The standard is not perfection, it’s good faith,” she said.

Judge Ralph E. Amirato  said there was no evidence that Shushing L. took any steps to register to vote, as required by state law.

“I do not find any good faith efforts were completed by the applicant,” he said.  “She will be able to participate in future years, but based on our statutes, I am unable to permit the applicant to vote in this election.”

The judge praised Shushing L. for fighting for her right to vote.

“I can only hope and wish al U.S. citizens were as dedicated as you to exercise their right to vote and I am confident that you will be voting in the future,” Amirato said.

To ensure  the integrity of our election process, registration is required, and I have a legal obligation to enforce our statutes as they are written.

Gov. Phil Murphy and some groups, including the ACLU-NJ, have advocated for same-day voter registration as way of assuring the enfranchisement of new voters.

Editor’s note: to protect their privacy, the New Jersey Globe is withholding the last names of voters who appear before a judge due to problems voting, unless they consent.

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