More voters turning to mail to cast ballots

COLLEEN O'DEA, SENIOR WRITER AND PROJECTS EDITOR | AUGUST 16, 2021 

NJ Spotlight News

Using a ballot drop box

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Close to three in 10 people who voted in the June primary used mail-in ballots, the most for any nonpresidential primary in New Jersey, according to data from the state Division of Elections.

The 2020 June primary was the only election in which a greater percentage of voters — 87.5% — used paper ballots, a number driven by the pandemic. To minimize the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Phil Murphy ordered county clerks to send a mail-in ballot to every active registered Democrat and Republican and urged people to use these to vote. Only a fraction of the usual number of polling locations was open for that election.

When voters automatically receive a ballot, many use them. For last November’s general election, county clerks sent ballots to more than 6 million registered voters and 93.5% either mailed them back or deposited them into one of more than 100 secure drop boxes throughout the state.

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While Murphy waits to act, ICE extends detainee contract

MONSY ALVARADO, SOCIAL JUSTICE WRITER | AUGUST 16, 2021 

NJ Spotlight News

Gov. Phil Murphy could have prevented the renewal of a contract to house immigration detainees at an Elizabeth facility, advocates said as they urged him to sign a law banning such deals in the state.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed that it has extended its contract through August 2023 with CoreCivic, one of the country’s largest private prison companies, to house detainees. Currently, CoreCivic leases a building in an industrial section of Elizabeth where it houses the detainees for ICE’s Enforcement Removal Operations in New Jersey. The current population at the facility is 134.

“Despite having legislation on Governor Murphy’s desk in June, failure to sign it into law has allowed ICE to extend its stay here,’’ the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice said in an online post Friday.

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New revenues show possible election year gas tax increase

By David WildsteinAugust 13 2021 

New Jersey Globe

Wawa Gas Station at Lanoka Harbor, 

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Gas tax revenues are down about $5 million for the previous 13 months, which could trigger an increase in New Jersey’s gas tax a month before the gubernatorial election.

That decision won’t be made for sure until state officials and an independent entity review the numbers.  The tax will only increase if the total annual revenues fall short of $2 billion.

The state Department of the Treasury quietly announced collection figures on Friday.

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What you need to know to navigate N.J.’s new eviction laws, federal moratoriums

Posted Aug 14, 2021

Federal orders and state legislation setting new deadlines and mandates for residential evictions during the coronavirus pandemic has been fast-moving and for many, confusing.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed a new bill on Aug. 4 that laid out two sets of deadlines for evictions and a process for getting cases in landlord-tenant court dismissed. A day earlier, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its own eviction moratorium that could last for much of the nation until Oct. 3.

Northeast New Jersey Legal Services attorney Lawrence Sindoni admitted it’s been a lot to navigate. His organization provides legal assistance to low-income residents in Bergen, Hudson and Passaic counties.

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‘Hallelujah Moment’: How This City Overcame Its Lead Crisis

Workers removing a lead water line outside a home on 2nd Avenue in Newark as part of efforts to replace every single lead line in the city.Credit...
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NEWARK — When a police siren abruptly woke up Christopher Daniels one morning this spring, he rushed outside. A police officer ordered him to move his car.

But then the officer explained why: Contractors were there to replace the lead pipe that carried water into his century-old Victorian home in the North Ward of Newark.

Mr. Daniels, whose 4-year-old grandson had tested for elevated levels of lead in his blood when he was younger, was relieved. “This could have been disastrous on so many levels,” he said. “It’s an hallelujah moment.’’

The work at Mr. Daniels’s home is part of a remarkable milestone in New Jersey’s largest city. Two years after Newark became the scene of one of the worst environmental disasters to strike an American city in decades, nearly all its 23,000 lead service lines, which had tainted the drinking water, have been replaced with copper pipes.

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N.J. jail renews deal with ICE while bill banning new contracts sits on Murphy’s desk

Posted Aug 13, 2021

While Gov. Phil Murphy is on vacation with his family in Italy and a bill that would ban local jails from signing new contracts to house federal immigrant detainees sits on his desk, one privately-owned jail extended its contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement until 2023.

CoreCivic, the private company that runs the Elizabeth Contract Detention Facility, recently renewed its contract with ICE to house federal immigration detainees until August 31, 2023, ICE-ERO Newark confirmed. The more than two-year contract extension was announced in a Tuesday earnings call by Damon T. Hininger, CoreCivic’s president and CEO, Documented reported.

The contract extension comes as a bill that would have blocked the renewal still awaits Murphy’s signature, having sped its way through the state Senate and the Assembly with resounding support. The bill prohibits New Jersey, local government agencies and private detention facilities in the state from entering into, renewing, or extending immigration detention agreements.

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NJ Transit’s bus redesign plan debuts to mixed rider reviews about changes and cuts

Posted Aug 13, 2021

A plan that proposes more frequent NJ Transit bus service on weekdays and weekends and even an Uber-like service to the port, debuted during two virtual public forums Thursday to some praise and some criticism from riders.

The New Bus Newark plan redesigns 38 routes to and from Newark that were used by 180,000 people in 2019. A final plan is expected to be released this fall. An online survey about the changes that the plan proposes is being conducted on the New Bus Newark website until Sept. 9.

The plan would provide a bus every five minutes on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and every 10 minutes on weekends on three of the busiest “Type 1A” routes, the #1, 25 and 21 buses, which are designated the “backbone” of Newark’s bus routes, NJ Transit officials said.

The redesign would create a “Bus Rapid Transit” like corridor, with dedicated bus lanes and traffic signals that give green light preference to buses, said consultants working on the plan.

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Urban North Jersey congressional districts overpopulated; most others underpopulated

By Joey FoxAugust 12 2021

New Jersey Globe

Members of the New Jersey congressional delegation in the 116th Congress in Washington in 2019, left to right: Donald Norcross, Jeff Van Drew, Frank Pallone, Mikie Sherrill, Tom Malinowski, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Albio Sires, Bill Pascrell, Andy Kim and Donald Payne. Missing: Josh Gottheimer

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With the release of municipal-level 2020 Census data today comes the prospect of congressional redistricting, critical for control of the House in 2022 and beyond. And while the layout of New Jersey’s 12 congressional districts won’t be known for several months, the data do show which of the current districts are underpopulated and overpopulated – a key factor in how they might be redrawn.

The most overpopulated district in the state is the 8th district (Sires), a majority-Hispanic district covering Elizabeth and parts of Newark and Jersey City, which has a population of approximately 821,000 – 47,000 higher than the 774,082 ideal population for a New Jersey congressional district.

The 9th (Pascrell) and 10th (Payne) districts, which similarly cover heavily urbanized areas in North Jersey, are overpopulated by around 18,000 and 42,000, respectively. Growth in cities like Jersey City and Hoboken, and to a lesser extent Newark, is driving the changes.

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Newark Remains NJ’s Largest City, 2020 Census Data Shows

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Cory Booker goes viral ridiculing ‘scurrilous accusation’ that Democrats want to defund police

Posted Aug 11, 2021

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker turned up the decibel levels for a few moments on the Senate floor Tuesday night as he ridiculed the thought that anyone in the U.S. Senate wants to defund the police.

The New Jersey Democrat’s theatrical moment, which has gone viral, came during an all-night Senate session as he debated an amendment by U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., to cut federal funding to municipalities that reduced funding for police departments.

“Opposing my amendment is a vote in support of Defunding the Police and against our men and women in blue,” said Tuberville.

Booker got up to speak, gleeful in the thought that Tuberville had up teed him up for a response.

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