Paterson man hasn’t voted for decades because of criminal record. He just registered to vote in November. | Paterson Times

Paterson man hasn’t voted for decades because of criminal record. He just registered to vote in November.


41-year-old Qayyum Montgomery has never voted in his entire life because of his entanglement in the criminal justice system.

“I was always in trouble,” said Montgomery, who has half dozen criminal convictions, on Friday afternoon. He said he committed armed robbery at age 15 and was charged as an adult. He was arrested three years ago for allegedly dealing drugs. “Criminals can’t vote.”

But he can vote. Governor Phil Murphy late last year signed legislation into law that allows former criminals, like Montgomery, on probation or parole to register and vote.

Montgomery is among the 80,000 people whose voting rights were restored as a result of the new law.

“I’m happy to have a chance to vote,” said Montgomery (pictured, left) after filling out a voter registration form.

Montgomery was among 70 people registered to vote by the group called “We Believe” that’s spearheaded by attorney Kenyatta Stewart.

Stewart (pictured, right) held the clipboard while Montgomery filled out the form on 10th Avenue.

“I’m voting for Trump anyway,” Montgomery joked when Stewart and others approached him in the street corner to get him registered.

Stewart is a Democrat who serves as chief attorney for Newark. He did not engage Montgomery in political discussion. He had told the 30 volunteers, who were part of the caravan to register voters in high crime parts of Paterson, not to engage in political debates during a pep talk at the Vreeland Triangle, where the group met to begin their campaign.

Stewart told the volunteers their goal is to get people registered not to fight or argue over presidential candidates.

Stewart once represented Montgomery in a criminal case.

“I’m glad he came,” said Montgomery of Stewart. Stewart had him complete the form before the October 13 deadline for registrations.

Montgomery said he watched the vice presidential debate between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence. He said he was impressed by Harris. He is looking forward to receiving his mail-in ballot to cast his vote on November 3rd, he said.

Stewart and the volunteers targeted six spots in Paterson. Each future voter was given a raffle, said Jada Fulmore, who runs the New Jersey Reentry Corporation’s program in Paterson. Her group was part of the effort to register former convicts.

Fulmore said laptops, gift cards, and food store cards would be raffled at a block party on Presidential Boulevard.

“We know many people are re-united, re-acclimated with their families, and now we’re trying to get them re-acclimated in society,” said Stewart.

“Now they feel like they are” part of the community, said councilwoman Ruby Cotton. “It should have been done long time ago.”

Qayyum Montgomery and councilwoman Ruby Cotton.

Qayyum Montgomery and councilwoman Ruby Cotton.

Stewart said a lot of formerly incarcerated people have children who attend public schools. “You can go get your kid every day from the school, but you can’t vote for the folks who are running the place,” he said.

Stewart said some of the people who he met on the streets said they were not aware of the new law that allows them to vote.

“The rules have changed. We have to educate them,” said Stewart.

“It was like winning a lottery,” said Teddie Martinez, 52, who voted for the first time last year. He had been convicted of federal drug offenses.

Martinez started voting before the new law was passed. He has registered about a dozen people on parole or probation after the new law came into effect, he said.

Volunteers also registered people who did not have any criminal records.

Bre Azanedo, a volunteer, registered 19-year-old Mikuel Martinez, not related to the other Martinez. He was walking by the Vreeland Triangle when Azanedo approached him.

Azanhdo said it took just five minutes to get Martinez to complete the voter registration form.

Are you going to vote in November?

“Most likely,” replied Martinez.

“Nah, man, wrong answer,” interjected Shawn Collins, a teacher. “You’re supposed to say, ‘Hell yeah.’”

Martinez revised his answer and said he will vote.

“I never got a chance to vote. But I always wanted to. The reason why it’s important is because if you don’t vote, sometimes, a person like Trump could get back up in there,” said Montgomery.

Montgomery, who said Trump has been bad for the U.S., plans to vote for Joe Biden.

Email: [email protected]

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  • DemocrapSocialistsSuck

    IQ tests should be a prerequisite to voting. These morons obviously have no idea how bad Senile Joe and Kamalhoe would be for this country.

    • bigron

      Be careful what you wish for. From your comments the IQ test might disqualify you!

      • DemocrapSocialistsSuck

        Says the moron lol. They can't be too bright, look at the shape Paterson is in. The dummies in my town vote for competent officials which is why we idiots don't live in a shithole like the geniuses in Paterson like you.

  • Lueminattibenz

    Born in Paterson NJ myself I've know they do not seperate Hispanics from blacks and whites inside the Passaic county jail
    My point is mr montgomery is a perfect example of how biden and his segrationst freinds in high places who are law makers the same laws that has kept blacks and Hispanics in jails and whites out Kamala Harris is a PROSECUTER somebody should educate me montgomery on who fought and continues still to fight like hell to put blacks and Latinos in jail in US american courts and especially designed to railroad blacks n Latinos of low income communities in Passaic county
    Democrats have been in charge in Paterson nj corrupt cops. corrupt politicians. who play the game of nepotism and pay to play as schemes but Mr montgomery wants to vote for the very same people and party that put us in jail
    And wants to keep it that wayTrump2020 I woke up brethren
    Listen to lil baby bigger than black n white and listen ☮️❤️wake up

    • DemocrapSocialistsSuck

      You're wasting your time with these idiots they've been brainwashed too thoroughly.