Voter Service Report Fall 2016
Voter Service was extremely active in 2016‒both at the June Primary and in the General Election. The League was often commended for its service. The League website was visited by more people than last year, and video of League forums attracted hundreds of viewers. VOTE411 was a success and will make informing voters about their candidates even easier and more far-reaching in the future. See below for the details and exciting statistics. And congratulations to the members of the Princeton Area League, the majority of whom participated in Voter Service activities. Teamwork makes success.
Voter registration drives were organized in two high schools during May. Malachi Wood, a French teacher, arranged a student-run drive at Princeton High that registered 20-30 students (some students preferred to register at their colleges in the fall). Edith Neimark registered 50 students at South Brunswick High School.
A forum, co-sponsored by Princeton Community TV, was held on May 11 for the four Democratic candidates vying for Princeton Council. Because no Republicans had filed, the primary would determine the members of Council. Ann Armstrong moderated. 43 voters attended at Witherspoon Hall, and 160 watched the video in its entirety. More watched at least a portion of the video.
Two other contested elections among Democrats—for Mercer County and Somerset County Freeholder—were covered by Voters’ Guides, which were published on the League website.
In August, Sandy Smith attended a voter registration training session sponsored by Planned Parenthood and was then asked to help train members of the Universalist Unitarian Legislative Ministry of NJ. On September 8, she trained eight volunteer registrars. Training sessions will be planned for next year.
During two-hour shifts on September 26 and 27 and October 6 and 13, the Princeton Area League joined the Lawrence League and volunteers from the UU Congregation in registering a total of 128 students at Mercer County Community College.
The Princeton Public Library invited the League to run a twelve-hour registration in honor of National Voter Registration Day. Members and volunteers from the UU Congregations registered 18 voters, gave 17 registration forms to voters to take home, and handed out 7 Vote-by-Mail applications.
Jennifer Howard handed out six registration forms at the Trenton Farmers’ Market.
As always, Joan Bharucha registered on five Saturdays in September and early October at the West Windsor Farmers’ Market. Although she reached fewer voters than usual‒15 registrations and 25 Vote-by-Mail applications‒she made up posters with oval openings with various sayings, such as “I voted so I can complain” and asked people to take their picture and send them to friends to remind them to vote.
This year, four organizations asked the Princeton Area League to make presentations in honor of the Presidential election. The League fulfilled three requests. On September 17, Chrystal Schivell presented “How to Vote” at the Hillsborough Library. Only two people attended.
With the assistance of Sandie Rabinowitz, Jennifer Howard presented “Serving NJ Voters – 2016 and Beyond” at the West Windsor Library on October 8. Sadly, no one attended.
On October 21, Sandy Smith gave a talk about the history of voting rights to Women in Retirement at the Princeton Senior Resource Center. About 40 women attended. Several congratulated Sandy.
The two candidates for Princeton Mayor met on October 4 at Witherspoon Main for over an hour. Karen Siracusa moderated. 56 voters attended, and Republican voters complimented the League on including their questions. The forum was videotaped and rebroadcast by George McCollough of Princeton Community TV, a co-sponsor of the forum. The video was posted at the League’s website and that of Princeton TV. Of the 240 voters who looked at the video, 55 watched it in its entirety.
On October 6, the four candidates for the Princeton Board of Education met at Monument Main in an hour-long debate. Karen Siracusa again moderated. Princeton Community TV co-sponsored, videotaped, and rebroadcast the forum. Thirty voters attended, but 717 downloaded the video and 261 watched all of it. It was the 6th most-watched program on Princeton TV in November.
The 12th Congressional District Forum between Bonnie Watson Coleman and Steven Uccio took place on October 20 at The College of New Jersey. It was co-sponsored by all the Leagues in the 12th District and moderated by Ann Armstrong. About 150 voters attended or half the capacity of Mayo Hall. George McCollough videotaped and rebroadcast the forum. Of the 287 voters who looked at the video, 69 watched all of it.
This year LWVNJ bought into VOTE411, LWVUS’s one-stop-shop for election related information. VOTE411 is essentially an online Voters’ Guide, similar to the guides previously published in The Princeton Packet and posted on the Princeton Area League’s website. Sandy Smith, Patricia Casey Connolly, and Chrystal Schivell, along with Gabrielle Hartmann, an intern from Hillsborough High School, learned to use the system, contacted candidates, and published their responses to League questions. Municipal and school board races in Hillsborough, Montgomery, Plainsboro, Princeton, West Windsor, and South Brunswick, as well as the Middlesex County races for Sheriff and Freeholder were covered. The work of the Princeton Area League accounted for 15% of all the races published on VOTE411 in New Jersey.
Because LWVUS covered the Presidental contest, Jesse Burns of LWVNJ covered the Congressional contests, and other local Leagues covered the Mercer and Somerset County races, voters in the Princeton Area could find information about every candidate on their ballots.
Because the League opted to publish its guides online, it had to end its collaboration with The Princeton Packet to publish the guides. Coincidentally, The Packet had changed ownership, and it was unlikely that The Packet would have been able to afford the League the space it had so generously offered in the past. VOTE411 was publicized by all local newspapers and through business cards that were distributed at all League functions.
Impact of Voter Service
The Princeton Packet covered the local League forums and quoted in its articles the candidates’ responses from VOTE411. VOTE411 was promoted by The Packet and was always acknowledged as the source for candidate responses. Town Topics and the Trenton Times also covered the forums.
Sandy Shapiro reports that from October 1 through November 9, the Princeton Area League website had almost 2,000 users (about 500 more than last year), with 3,698 page views (about the same as last year). The spike came from November 5-8, as might be expected. Most visitors to the site were new—85%. And from January 1, she found that the site had steady usage, with another peak in June, probably because of primary elections. Again, most were new users—not just League members going to the site. It even had hits in Canada, Europe, India, Japan, Australia, and Africa, though sometimes only one per country—maybe some area residents were traveling and checked in.
Voter Service is truly a team effort. In addition to the members listed above, Voter Service had help with its forums and registrations and with creating questions for candidates from the following members: Elizabeth Bates, Sheila Berkelhammer, Roberta Churchill, Lee Forbes, Frieda Gilvarg, Margaret Griffin, Nancy Hall, Ellen Kemp, Jessica Knowlton, Rita Ludlum, Ingrid Reed, John Schivell, Melissa Scott, and Grace Sinden. Kudos to the Princeton Area League.