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Rutgers Law Students Assisted Voters on Election Day

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Rutgers Law clinic students volunteered at the Veterans Courthouse on Election Day, making sure voters turned down at the polls could appear in front of a judge to get their right to vote.

Rutgers Law School students spent Election Day at the Veterans Courthouse in Newark , offering free legal assistance to voters who had been turned down at the polls.

“I’m excited to help,” said volunteer Melissa Cappello, a 3L, who was part of a cadre of students participating in the Voter Assistance Project, under the supervision of Rutgers Law professors.

Citizens denied the right to vote who want to seek a court order allowing them to vote must first proceed to the Superintendent of Elections Office at the Hall of Records. Aspiring voters next appear before a judge at the Veterans Courthouse in Newark.

Chris Baez, a 3L, worked with voters at the Hall of Records, explaining the process they would go through to appeal their cases in front of a judge. “I explain it to them step by step,” he said. “They want to be helped, they want the right to vote.”

Among the clients were 25-year -old twins sisters from East Orange, who said it wasn’t the first time their names – which are spelled similarly- had not been recorded correctly at their polling places. 

“I got to vote, but I want to make sure, so I’m doing extra follow up. I’m going before a judge,” said Chiemeka Ekwaghari. Her sister complimented the students and Professor Alexis Karteron of the Constitutional Rights Clinic, who helped with their case. “I really appreciate it,” said Chiamaka Ekwghari, who said as the children of Nigerian immigrants, they are aware of the importance of voting.

Jasmine Saleh, a 2L, also assisted voters on the fourth floor of the courthouse, “People don’t realize it’s not the end of the line if they don’t have your name at the polls. I think the important thing is people should know they have that opportunity.”

Rutgers Law students have been offering this assistance for at least a decade. Though a voter not permitted to vote at a polling site can vote by provisional ballot, those ballots are not always counted. Instead, the law students represented the voters who sought court orders that would allow them to vote at a polling place.

For more than a decade, Rutgers Law students who work in the clinic programs, have volunteered to help voters on Election Day, said Professor Charles Auffant. Student volunteers are part of the Voter Assistance Project, and went through training prior to Election Day. Co-dean Ronald K. Chen, Professor Laura Cohen, and Victor Monterrosa ’14, also assisted students with voting cases during the day.

Though it wasn’t crowded throughout the day, students said there was a steady stream of voters, hoping to get their votes counted on Tuesday, and most were successful.  Baez said, “People who came here are the most motivated.”