Category Archives: Uncategorized

New Jersey Primary Election Information

The following post was written by LWVNJ intern Susan Pagano

Primary

2017 is going to be a big election season in New Jersey. New Jersey voters will select a new governor this year, and all 120 seats in the state legislature are up for grabs as well. It’s important for New Jersey voters to get out and vote in the primary and general elections, and the League of Women Voters of New Jersey is here to offer important information for voters who want to participate in the process.

The primary election is quickly approaching and will be held on Tuesday, June 6, 2017, but many voters are confused about what the primary election is and how they can participate. A primary election is one that allows members of a political party to choose a candidate to represent them in an upcoming election. This means that the winning candidates from the primary election will go on to represent the political party in the general election on November 7, 2017. New Jersey is a closed primary state, which means that only voters who are registered members of a political party may participate in nominating that party’s candidates.

Therefore, since New Jersey is a closed primary state, there are some important deadlines to keep in mind for voters who want to participate in the upcoming primary election. There are two main requirements for New Jersey voters to take part in the June 6th primary: 1) you must be registered to vote; and 2) you must declare your party affiliation. The deadline to register to vote is May 16, 2017, so qualified voters who are currently unregistered have until this date to complete and return their Voter Registration Application.

Voters who are registered to vote, but are not affiliated with a political party, will need to declare their party affiliation in order to vote in the primary. Unaffiliated voters can register with a political party up to and including Primary Election Day. There are two options for currently unaffiliated voters to declare their political party affiliation. You may either file a Party Affiliation Declaration Form with the Commissioner of Registration/Superintendent of Elections for your county by mail or in person, or if you choose to, you can also declare your affiliation at your polling place on Primary Election Day.

Voters who are already affiliated with a political party are ready to vote in the June 6th primary election! If you are unsure of your party affiliation, you can call your County Commissioner of Registration/Superintendent of Elections and ask. However, if currently affiliated voters wish to switch their party affiliation before the primary, they must file a Party Affiliation Declaration Form with the Commissioner of Registration/ Superintendent of Elections for their county at least 55 days before a primary election. The deadline to change party affiliation is April 12, 2017, and the form must be delivered by mail or in person.

Once registered voters have declared their party affiliation, it’s important to know who is running for your party. For a list of all the 279 candidates who have qualified for the June 6th primary for the Republican and Democratic nominations in each district, see this. If you don’t know your district, you can find it here.

It’s also important to remember that only the Democratic and Republican parties hold primary elections. The other recognized parties in New Jersey do not hold primary elections and instead select their candidates in a variety of ways. If you are a registered member of another party, you can participate in the convention of that party, but you cannot vote in either the Democratic or Republican Primary.

The League of Women Voters of New Jersey hopes that all New Jersey voters vote in the upcoming primary election on June 6, 2017. Polls will be open from 6am to 8 pm, and you can find your polling location here. If you have any questions, please call the League at 1-800-792-VOTE (8683) or email us at contact@lwvnj.org.

 

Voting Rights by Northeastern States

The following post was written by LWVNJ intern Susan Pagano

voting-reform-graphicGraphic by LWVNJ intern Jack Streppone

States in the Northeast have some of the most voter-friendly legislation in the country; however, this is not the case for New Jersey. New Jersey’s voting rights legislation is seriously lacking in comparison to other states in the region. Let’s take a look at how rights for New Jersey voters stack up against other states in the Northeast.

The one area where New Jersey has similar legislation to other Northeastern states is in regards to in-person early voting. Even in these cases, though, the legislation is not accessible enough to have a significant, positive impact on voters. Some states, like Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts, allow limited in-person voting during a specified time before Election Day where voters must request an absentee ballot and can either mail or bring their ballot to their local municipal clerk. However, in New Jersey, absentee ballots are received by county clerks, so in most cases, there is only one location for voters per county, as opposed to one location per town or city like in the other states. Expanding in-person early voting options to more locations adds flexibility for New Jersey voters, which increases turnout, reduces the administrative burden on election days, and allows for early identification and correction of registration errors.

Unfortunately, the similarities stop there. Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania are six of the 34 states (plus the District of Columbia) that offer online registration as a method for registering voters, whereas New Jersey’s voter registration system is entirely paper-based. Additionally, Connecticut and Vermont have enacted automatic voter registration, and Pennsylvania and New York are currently considering legislation to implement their own programs, as well. Eligible voters in these states would be automatically registered to vote (unless they opt out) whenever they interact with a government agency, like the MVC. Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Connecticut also offer same day voter registration, which has been shown to have a significant, positive impact on voter turnout. In New Jersey, voters must register 21 days before an election.

Another area of voting rights where New Jersey legislation is significantly more restrictive in comparison to other Northeastern states is in regards to voting rights for people with felony convictions. Maine and Vermont have the most inclusive legislation in the entire nation, where people with felony convictions never lose the right to vote and can vote while completing their sentence. Those with felony convictions in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania lose the right to vote while incarcerated, with automatic restoration after release. In Connecticut and New York, people with felony convictions lose the right to vote until completion of their sentence, which includes parole. In New Jersey, those with felony convictions lose the right to vote until completion of their sentence, which includes parole and probation. New Jersey has the strictest law regarding ex-felon voting rights in the Northeast.

Therefore, in an effort to increase voter turnout, improve accessibility to the ballot, improve efficiency and save money, and ensure voting rights are protected, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey supports voting reform initiatives, which include online voter registration, automatic voter registration, expanded in-person early voting, same day voter registration, and rights restoration for parolees and probationers.  These voting rights reforms will not only benefit the New Jersey voters, but they will also create more inclusive voting rights legislation that is in line with other Northeastern states. If you’re interested in helping pass these reforms, contact us at jburns@lwvnj.org.

 

5 Things You Can Do Today to Improve our Democracy

At the League of Women Voters, our work does not end after Election Day.

Here are five things you can do today to influence the future of our democracy. Let’s get to work!five-things

  1. Sign up to receive our emails: You will receive information about taking action locally and nationally, and nonpartisan educational materials designed to increase public participation and civic engagement.
  1. Join the League of Women Voters of New Jersey  because:
    1. You want to be politically informed. League members study, discuss, and debate policy issues and legislation that directly affects their communities.
    2. You want to help others become informed and active. League members provide New Jersey voters with the information they need to get to the polls and make informed decisions on election days.
    3. You think government needs a watchdog. Together we can improve transparency and prevent corruption.
    4. You want to shape policy. Our nonpartisan grassroots membership works to influence public policy at all levels of government.
    5. You want to lead. Through a variety of leadership workshops and other opportunities, the League gives you the tools to become an effective leader and community organizer.
  1. Influence Public Policy: The League will be here protecting voting rights and civil liberties, fighting for women’s rights, protecting our environment, demanding an open and accessible government, ensuring that all of our voices are heard and that your representatives represent YOU. Our six statewide policy committees work on public policy and are looking for new members. If interested in learning more about joining a committee listed below, email jburns@lwvnj.org.
  • Education
  • Natural Resources
  • Women and Family Issues
  • Government/Voting Rights
  • Immigration
  • Fiscal Policy
  1. Get Out the Vote: 2017 is an important election year in New Jersey and we need help improving New Jersey’s dismal voter turnout. We are looking for people interested in becoming League moderators, planning voter registration drives, creating nonpartisan material, and more. Email jburns@lwvnj.org if interested in doing nonpartisan voter engagement work!
  1. Give a Gift. The League of Women Voters relies on donations to carry out this work. Gifts to LWVNJ support our advocacy work and are non-tax deductible. Gifts to LWVNJ-EF support our voter service work and are tax deductible. You can donate online to LWVNJ or LWVNJ-EF or you can mail a check to 204 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08608. Thank you!

 

Know Your Voting Rights!

Election Day is November 8th, 2016! Make sure that you know your voting rights before you head out to the polls!

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You have the right to vote on Election Day if:

  1. You have registered to vote at least 21 days before Election Day. There is no fee to register to vote. You have the right to register at your primary address – this could be college address if you are a student and if you are homeless, it can be any place you usually stay.
  2. You must meet the legal requirements in order to register.

You can register to vote if:

  1. You are a U.S. citizen, you are at least 17 years old (with the understanding that you cannot vote until you are 18), and have been a resident of a New Jersey county for at least 30 days before the election.
  2. A court has not specifically determined that you lack the mental capacity to understand the act of voting.
  3. You are not in prison, on probation, or on parole for a felony conviction. If you are serving time for a misdemeanor or civil matter, you can still vote. You have the right to register and to vote from jail using a mail-in ballot. If you lost your voting rights for a felony conviction, your right to vote is restored once you complete your sentence, parole and probation. You must re-register to vote, even if you were registered before your conviction.

NJ Voters’ Bill of Rights On Election Day

You have the right:

  1. To vote in private without intimidation, threats, coercion, or interference.
  2. To bring your children into the voting booth with you.
  3. To file a signed or anonymous written complaint at your polling place or by mail, telephone, or online if you are dissatisfied with the way the election is being run.
  4. To bring someone of your choice into the voting booth to assist you with voting if you cannot read or write English or have a disability. You can also request special assistance from the poll worker.
  5. To vote by an emergency paper ballot if the machines are malfunctioning. Emergency ballots are counted automatically.
  6. To be given a provisional ballot if you are not allowed to vote on an machine or by emergency ballot. The ballot should have written instructions, including how to find out if it was counted. Your eligibility to vote must be verified by the county before your provisional ballot is counted.
  7. To vote under your original name if you have changed your name since registering to vote.
  8. To ask for assistance from a poll worker.
  9. To maintain a “reasonable” amount of time to cast your vote in the voting booth.
  10. Bring voting materials (such as the sample ballot), but no other campaign materials into the voting booth to help you.

Voting Problems at the Polls?

If your polling location is not open when you arrive, call our hotline at 1-800-792-VOTE (8683) or the Division of Elections at 1-877-NJVOTER to alert officials of the problem. Polls are open 6am-8pm. If your right to vote is challenged by an official challenger, ask the poll worker for an affidavit, which you will sign to confirm your identity or address. The worker will allow you to vote either on the machine or by a provisional ballot.

You have the right to vote by Provisional Ballot if:

  1. You believe you are entitled to vote but your name is not on the poll list of voters.
  2. You have moved recently within your county and have not registered at your new address.
  3. You are a first-time voter and you did not provide the accepted form of ID when you registered to vote and did not bring it on Election Day. You must bring acceptable ID to the appropriate county office within 48 hours of voting for your provisional ballot to be counted. Poll workers must give you a form that tells you where the office to bring your ID is located.
  4. You requested a mail-in ballot but didn’t receive it in time.

If you are not allowed to vote or if you feel you are wrongly made to vote on a provisional ballot when you’re entitled to vote on the machine, you have the right to present your case to an election judge on Election Day who will determine your eligibility to vote. If you intend to appear before an election judge, call our Voter Protection Hotline at 1-800-792-VOTE (8683) for assistance.

 

 

Constitution Day

The following post was written by LWVNJ intern Nakea Barksdale

Today marks the 229th anniversary of the signing of the most influential document in American history: the United States Constitution. On September 17, 1787, the Founding Fathers worked to develop a framework for the U.S. government that not only accounted for federal and state interests, but individual human rights as well. Since then, America has grown tremendously and the Constitution has been able to endure 229 years of remarkable change and growth.

What can you do to celebrate?

  • Read it. What better way to celebrate Constitution Day than to increase your understanding of it? There are even quizzes online for you to test your knowledge, and if you are already familiar with the Constitution, consider learning more about the Framers or discover the ideas behind the document.
  • Spread the word. There are numerous ways in which you can share what you know and learn about it with others around you. Pass out copies of pocket Constitutions. Use social media as your platform and post a blog, or even submit an article to the newspaper. You can also share what you know by participating in discussion panels or forums.
  • Celebrate with your community. Your community may be hosting their own celebration for Constitution Day, such as festivals, displays, exhibits, and tours of government documents.
  • Get involved. One way to get involved in politics is to attend your local city council and board of supervisor public meetings. Then, you can consider at what level of commitment you want to participate in, whether that means running for council, a board position, or even joining a political organization that represents your views and/or concerns. Consider joining a nonpartisan political organization, such as the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, where you can work with others in your community to help improve our government and public policies.
  • And most importantly, REGISTER TO VOTE! Voting matters to the health of the American political system.

Happy Constitution Day!

 

The Paycheck: Still Fighting For Equality

The following is a guest post written by Maggie Kurnyta, LWVNJ spring intern

As a college student, vocal feminist, and future member of the American workforce, I find myself anxious about what is to come. Currently, white women earn 80 cents to every dollar a white man earns, a drastic disparity that is often overlooked or rationalized with ludicrous theories.

What’s even more ludicrous than that is women in minority groups earn close to 80% of what a white women makes. No, you weren’t reading that wrong. Women of color earn even less than white women, a fact that should come as no surprise to anyone with even the smallest bit of knowledge about our country’s history.

I know, it seems like we’re back in 1919 still fighting for our right to vote or in 1963 yearning for bodily autonomy and freedom from the domestic sphere we were pushed into, but we’re not. This is 2016, and while the “equal pay for equal work” motto is one I am proud to support, it’s also one that I have never seen put into practice.

A few days ago, I came across a quote from Maya Angelou, and as an English and Women’s and Gender Studies double major, Maya Angelou is a woman I deeply admire. Her quote was “I’ve been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side.” More often than not these days, women are realizing the injustice that is the gender wage gap and are actively fighting against it.

Pay equity shouldn’t even be a fight, but the most basic rights are often disputed and debated over as we have seen time and time again. However, if you were to ask me two years ago if men and women were being paid and credited equally for the same amount of work, I wouldn’t hesitate to say, “Of course.” It is truly amazing what some time, education, and disillusion will do to a young feminist.

I think that would be the word to characterize my emotions best: disillusion. I cannot fathom a society that would enforce and perpetuate a cycle of gender discrimination because I have met some of the most hardworking, ambitious women in my first two years of college. How can I tell them to try their best when their “best” is only going to be worth about 80% or less than what they really deserve? Pay inequality is a reality that we can no longer run from. That’s not to say that people won’t try.

Here are a few ludicrous theories we have most likely heard at least once in our lives:

“Women are more likely to take lower ranking positions because they want to start and maintain families.”

“Men earn more because they are smarter and work harder.”

“Women are not as skilled in negotiating for higher salaries as men are, so they are stuck in a perpetual state of wage inferiority.”

If you aren’t rolling your eyes yet, there are still dozens of other myths used to justify the wage gap. However, the term is “equal pay for equal work,” not equal pay for different fields and quality of work. Some employers may even claim they do not see gender while they are hiring workers, which in my opinion, is just an excuse to hire more men and promote less diversity.

Therefore, while the majority of myths are fabricated, there still lies some truth to them. Why would women be more likely to take off from work for a sick child instead of splitting time with their significant others? Why would women feel uncomfortable negotiating their salaries? How is it that female students can outperform male students, but still earn less than them on average when they enter the workforce?

I think before any work can be done to solve this injustice, we need to reach a consensus about the problem. Women are paid less than men for completing the same type and amount of work. This is not a myth; it is an institutional issue that can only be changed through legislative change and institutional enforcement. As I learn from and work with the League of Women Voters of New Jersey on this particular issue, I am pleased to say that I see pay equity coming to the forefront instead of being on the backburner. By denying women wage equality, we solidify their place as the inferior sex, a notion that is replicated in every other aspect of their personal lives.

Stacey Faella: Leading a New Generation of League Leaders

The following is the final post in a series highlighting the League of Women Voters of New Jersey Young People’s Network – a group of leaders that will keep the League going strong for many years into the future. The author is YPN Chair Stacey Faella.
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Stacey Faella (second from left) with members of the Young People’s Network

Election Day in 2004 was an important day for many Americans, and it was especially memorable to me for another reason: it was my 18th birthday. I still remember feeling a sense of pride that I got to exercise my right to vote for the next U.S. president on my very first day of being a legal adult, but I’ll also admit that I was not as clear about the choice I was making as I should have been. While I had learned the basics of government and civic duty in school, I was not very informed at the time about the candidates among whom I was choosing and the issues for which they stood.

Over a decade has gone by, and in my professional life I now run a family foundation in New York City, where one of the projects I’ve been working on has revolved around engaging millennials for social change. I’m also a new board member of LWVNJ and the committee chair for our recently formed Young People’s Network (YPN), which is focused on increasing civic engagement and League involvement among young people in our state. Both in the work that I do and as a U.S. citizen and NJ resident, I feel a sense of urgency about engaging more young people in politics. We’re a huge generation living in a time and place where so many social and political issues are affecting our lives. I’ve gone from feeling proud about exercising my right to vote to feeling that voting is just the beginning of civic responsibility and opportunity.

For me, getting involved in the League has been a fantastic way to learn more about the political system in the state I live in. Through the YPN committee, I’ve had a window into what it’s like to run for elective office in NJ. Through LWVNJ communications and member activity, I’ve learned about grassroots activity and organizing across the state on all kinds of issues, from our environment to immigration to education. I’ve benefited from the knowledge of longstanding members who have decades of experience and a nuanced understanding of NJ politics. And I’ve had so many interesting conversations with other young people about our political system and key issues that matter to them.

Later this year I’ll be voting in a presidential election for the fourth time, and I can say with certainty that with each election I’ve been more informed on voting day than I had been in the past. This year in particular, I not only have a better understanding of national politics but feel more connected to issues at the state and community level. I have the League to thank, and I feel so lucky for it. I highly encourage young NJ residents to take advantage of LWVNJ’s resources. Check out the LWVNJ website to learn about local political issues and find out about events you might be interested in. Download the Citizens Guide to refresh yourself on our state government. Follow LWVNJ and Young People’s Network on Facebook to stay connected. Join the League so that you too can stay informed and in touch with political activity in our state and even your community. And get involved with YPN so that you can connect with other young members and help encourage an informed and engaged NJ citizenry!