The Social Action Committee held a Town Hall on May 19, 2021. The “Voter Education: Make Your Voice Heard” webinar was designed to educate and engage our communities emphasizing the importance of voting in every election by discussing the significance of each office represented and by highlighting the importance of the voting process. We received in detail the function and role of the Board of Elections Administrator, the Board of Elections Commissioner and the County Clerk by a representative from each of the three counties in our service area.
Ms. Joanne Rajoppi, Union County Clerk, discussed her role in the early voting process. She will be responsible for implementing the process and protocol for early voting in the NJ General Election starting in November 2021. Electronic poll books will be used and the voters will be allowed to vote at any site within their county.
Voter Outreach and Voter Status
Mr. Thomas Lynch, Board of Elections Commissioner in Middlesex County, is responsible for Voter Outreach and Voter Status. New Jersey had a historical number of mail-in-ballots in 2020 due to COVID-19. In 2021 we will be returning to the “norm” and his office will educate voters on changes that will be made to the process. The Board of Elections will educate everyone to ensure they have the opportunity to vote.
Mr. Jerry Midgette, Esq., Board of Elections Administrator Somerset County, shared his role in the new laws for early voting registration in NJ and his support in implementing the process. Still in committee, in the NJ State Legislature, is the Same Day Voting process. Mr. Midgette discussed the challenges for same day voting and how important it will be to have the appropriate technology and a validated data system to protect the election process. He also explained Active and Inactive Status of voters and how to change to the appropriate status if you were not aware that you are Inactive. You could be removed from the roll if you did not vote in two consecutive federal elections. To be reinstated you must re-register. The Board of Elections is also heavily involved in cyber security.
Ms. Henal Patel, Esq., Director of Democracy & Justice Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, led the second panel discussion on Redistricting. She gave a passionate overview on redistricting and gerrymandering and the effect they have on determining our communities political power for the next decade. She also spoke about the impact they have on holding elected officials accountable. Redistricting is the process of redrawing our political boundary lines every ten years so that representation reflects the current population based on the U.S. Census. We do it for Congressional seats, State Legislature, county seats, municipal districts and school districts. Although NJ is now 45% people of color, our maps do not reflect that. The new map, based on the 2020 Census, must reflect and represent our communities.
A Call to Action
Toni Hendrix, 3rd Vice President, Community/Civic Engagement Chair in the New Brunswick Branch of the NAACP, gave the Call to Action. Ms. Hendrix emphasized that we have the power to engage and drive our communities forward in Health Care, Affordable Housing, and Education. Our rights are in the hands of the people we elect into office on the local, state, and federal levels. Women vote on a higher level than men and Black women are the most motivated of all voters. All of us must go to our family, friends, and community circles to encourage everyone to exercise their power to be in control of their civil rights.
If you missed this Town Hall, you can view it in its entirety here.