In addition to voting for candidates on November 3, New Jersey voters find THREE public questions to answer on our ballots. All three are proposed amendments to our state Constitution. NJ 11th for Change has reviewed the pros and cons of these measures, and has the following recommendations.
Public Question #1: Constitutional Amendment to Legalize Marijuana
NJ 11th for Change recommendation: vote YES
There are many benefits to legalizing recreational marijuana for adult use: social justice is the huge one, and there are significant economic benefits as well. The devil will be in the details of legislation that will be needed once the ballot question is approved by the voters. Expungement of past marijuana possession crimes is the big one here.
About the social justice benefits:
Statistically, while white people have faced little-to-no consequences for marijuana-related crimes, law enforcement has used marijuana to arrest, prosecute and incarcerate people of color at rates disproportionate to actual violations. Legalizing marijuana use will remove this much-abused opportunity for unequal application of the law.
About the economic benefits:
New Jersey spends $150 MILLION per year processing marijuana arrests. It is time for the FULL legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana, allowing us to reinvest directly in our communities. Investments that will pay dividends—in contrast to the costs of mass incarceration.
Public Question #2: Constitutional Amendment for a Tax Deduction and Exemption for Peacetime Veterans
NJ 11th for Change recommendation: we are NEUTRAL on this question
This extends a tax credit already available to wartime veterans and the surviving spouses of deceased wartime veterans.
It makes sense to extend that deduction to peacetime veterans and their surviving spouses. Note, however, this is tax relief only for veterans who own and live in their own homes, and does nothing for veterans who rent or are in other living situations, such as some forms of assisted living.
We must continue to push our legislators for comprehensive tax policy that addresses the larger issues of tax inequality rather than continue to cobble together fixes for individual groups.
Public Question #3: Constitutional Amendment to Change the Legislative Redistricting Schedule if Census Data is Delayed
NJ 11th for Change recommendation: vote NO
We see no need for a constitutional amendment, which is a permanent solution, for a one-time issue.
We are being asked to leave the voting district maps for the state legislature in place for two more years. That means two more years of elections — and political representation — based on old demographic information from the previous Census in 2010. This would leave many underrepresented groups with a diminished voice in the Statehouse for longer than necessary.
We don’t know when the results of the census will be available, or if it will be delayed at all. Temporary legislative fixes are options, if they are even needed. For example, we could delay the schedule for the 2021 primary as we did for the 2020 primary, or the redistricting process could be accelerated. There are practical solutions to this problem that don’t require permanent changes to the state Constitution — especially not changes that harm the democratic process and cause years of unfair representation any time there is a short delay in census reporting.
Additionally, we are particularly suspicious of a solution that could give even more power to the Norcross/Sweeney party bosses.