By: Armand V. Cucciniello III
With the 2016 general election just seven weeks away, enthusiastic New Jersey residents and citizen action groups are mobilizing to raise awareness and register eligible voters by October 18, the state’s voter registration deadline.
The Black Brunch NJ, a professional networking organization founded by L’Oreal Drayton, sponsored a Rock The Vote voter registration drive at Bloomfield College on Saturday, September 17.
“Voting gives people the freedom to make better decisions,” said Drayton, a New Jersey-based entrepreneur. “To run a business, you have to know the laws and regulations that impact your operations and concern your consumers. Local, state-level, and federally elected officials affect all of that via legislation.”
While the presidential race tends to draw the most attention, all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are up for grabs on November 8. Twelve of these seats are allocated for New Jersey, one for each of the state’s congressional districts. The importance of a general election runs deeper than Washington based, federal level politics, though. Local elections will be held in some towns and cities across the state, and a vote on two statewide ballot measures will take place:
Public Question 1 allows voters to decide on changes to the state’s gambling rules. A “yes” vote will clear the way for the New Jersey Legislature to pass laws allowing for two additional counties to each have one new casino, thereby ending a four-decade monopoly in Atlantic City. (Voting “no” opposes the proposal.) Public Question 2 addresses taxes, dedicating all revenue from gas taxes to transportation projects. A “yes” vote supports the proposal; a “no” vote opposes it, thus devoting the same levels of revenue to transportation projects.
The U.S. president’s direct impact on peoples’ daily lives is arguably nominal compared to that of other elected officials. The federal budget, for example, is controlled by the U.S. House of Representatives. Property taxes are determined at state and local levels. State income and sales tax rates are determined by state legislatures.
“State-level and local elections tend to impact residents much more directly,” says Drayton. “That is why paying attention to your assemblyperson’s and state senator’s positions and voting records are critical.”
This year there are roughly 226 million eligible voters in America, according to Pew Research Center. However data from the 2012 general election showed that only about 54 percent of the voting age population actually votes – a number considered low by international standards.
“People need to get involved. I think part of it is human nature. We wait until we need to be concerned. But if we get ahead of the game – if we proactively educate ourselves about the issues, how they will impact us, our kids, our grandchildren, in the future – I think more people would be voting and following political issues much more closely,” says Drayton.
New Jersey residents can check their voter registration status online by visiting www.Elections.NJ.gov . Eligible voters must be registered by October 18 to vote in the election on November 8. To register online, visit http://nj.gov/state/elections/voting-information.html.