NEWARK — Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday signed legislation restoring voting rights to convicts who are out of prison on parole or probation.

The measure will restore voting rights to roughly 80,000 convicts. Murphy, a Democrat, cast the measure as part of a progressive agenda aimed at reducing racial disparity in the state's criminal justice system, which had to disproportionately higher rates of incarceration for black residents, compared to whites.

“Our Administration is deeply committed to transforming our criminal justice system, and today we are taking a historic step to give residents impacted by that system a second chance,” Murphy said.

He also signed a bill aimed at making it easier for people convicted of lower-level crimes to clear their records.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, New Jersey would join 16 other states and the District of Columbia that bar only those convicts who are incarcerated from voting.

Most Republicans opposed the bill, saying it lacked common sense since the convicts hadn’t yet paid their “debt to society.”

The bill restoring voting rights goes into effect in March.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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