Voter Service Report

by Chrystal Schivell

Voter Service's most successful event last fall was the Princeton Mayoral debate, hosted by The Jewish Center. We had about 300 people in the audience, and 5,829 watched at least a portion of the videotape! 5,829 – that's a lot of people and may be why our League won the Communications Award at Convention.

What impressed me most about last fall was how willingly Leagues work together. I'd hoped to have a TV studio debate between Rush Holt and his competitor, and every League in the 12th District agreed to co-sponsor, submit questions, and disseminate the videotape. Rush asked for a live debate instead. I was undergoing a medical treatment at the time, so Hightstown-East Windsor took over. Although the debate never took place, this is a great example of cooperation.

The same thing happened with a debate between Marie Corfield and Donna Simon for the 16th Legislative District. In October, both candidates finally agreed to debate - but only in Somerset County. Terry Thompson, who won the League's Distinguished Service Award at Convention, was willing to take over. Sadly, the debate was flooded out by Hurricane Sandy. But again: cooperation.

Our League created Voters' Guides for Montgomery, Princeton, Plainsboro, West Windsor, and South Brunswick. The South Brunswick Post published its Guides before Sandy struck. The Packet, however, could not. Nevertheless, the Guides appeared on the Princeton Patch and on our website.

We also did several voter registrations – during Statewide Registration Weekend and at Farmers' Markets throughout the fall. And here's the most important point: Anyone of us can register voters whenever we see an opportunity! Joan Bharucha has registered voters at the West Windsor Farmers' Market for years. Rita Ludlum does the same for Stonebridge. If you want to run your own registration – at your church, at your library, almost anywhere except in front of a big-box store, DO! I will supply you with materials and advice. In fact, on your tables is a stack of registration forms. Take a couple now and keep them in your car or purse. You may bump into someone who needs them - especially with the upcoming election for the Senate.

The same philosophy applies to debates. There are five major municipalities in the Princeton Area. No one person can cover them all. As Voter Service chair, I see myself as responsible for debates for wider contests like the 16th Legislative District or the Freeholders. It's not effective for me to decide there's an interesting contest in, say, Montgomery and then have to track down League members from Montgomery to help with a debate. But if those of you from Montgomery or West Windsor want to take the initiative to put on a debate, I can help. Anne Zeman's done her own South Brunswick debates for years. Now she helps me with the 16th district.

In fact, we have a Voter Services Committee to cover all our municipalities. Sandy Smith has Plainsboro and West Windsor. Lee Forbes has Montgomery. Anne Zeman handles South Brunswick. I cover Princeton (now thankfully just one municipality). Debates are daunting – I know. But if you see a good one, go for it. The Committee is here to help. Get it videotaped and perhaps 5,829 people will see it!

And we will continue to do Voters' Guides for every municipality – for both school board and local government this November – all to be posted on our website. That means we need questions for the candidates! So there's a role for everyone here tonight. Whether you take charge of a debate, register voters, or submit that zinger of a question, you – we – will be fulfilling the mission of the League of Women Voters.