Participating In Democracy

Last month New Jersey Legislature leaders tried to pass a partisan gerrymandering bill SCR152/ACR205. Fortunately, a host of public interest groups, organizations and concerned citizens were able to thwart the effort to destabilize fair elections. At a hearing in December, more than 100 progressive individuals testified against the bill. The only supporters were the authors of the bill. The bill was shelved, a win for democracy. In a December 17 press release the League of Women Voters wrote, “They tried to pass these changes quickly and quietly when they thought nobody was paying attention, but we were there to shine a light, to mobilize the opposition, and to ensure voters were educated and their voices were heard. Our work isn’t finished. We now have the opportunity to work collaboratively with legislators and our partners in this fight to advance redistricting reforms that put power in the hands of voters and not politicians.”

This incident in New Jersey should not be treated as an isolated incident. Rather, it should be a reminder that democracy only works when citizens participate. Both Democrats and Republicans cheat the system for their own end. It reminds me of an online lobbying effort I participated in that succeeded in having all New Jersey legislative bills posted on the Internet. During the process one legislator was able to nearly kill the bill. A last-minute amendment on the floor of the State Senate saved the bill. It took a two-year effort to get the reform bill enacted into law. What was learned was to 1) watch a bill every minute because you don’t know what horse-trading will take place and 2) only an overwhelming group of citizen activists can prevail when confronting entrenched power. (Thanks for passage of the Internet bill S1068/A2372 goes to Paul Axel-Lute, a law librarian at Rutgers-Newark, who found a legislator to introduce the bill, to Jim Warren of California who was my mentor in this new area of online lobbying, to the New Jersey Library Association for their political education activities and to Senator Nia Gill of Montclair for rescuing the bill on the floor of the Senate.

If you still need to make a resolution for the New Year you should decide to make your voice heard or join a campaign, but do something to get involved. Perhaps register new voters. Call your elected officials, regularly.

Defending our institutions in these times of political anarchy displayed on Pennsylvania Avenue demands that we stand up. We must be engaged and active in our local communities. Collectively there is power when we work together.

Citizenship Question Threatens 2020 Census

The Trump Administration is attempting to weaken another American tradition – the U.S. Census. A scheme has been proposed that would add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The addition of this question will undermine the integrity of the Census Bureau. The inclusion of such a controversial question would have the effect of: 1) scaring certain members of local communities from participating in the Census, 2) threatening the flow of federal dollars to states and localities, and 3) cause an inaccurate and incomplete count of all person living in the United States.

The Commerce Department is currently accepting public comment on their Census plans. However, written comments must be submitted on or before August 7, 2018. Everyone should be counted. Let your voice be heard.

Take action and tell the U.S. Department of Commerce to remove the citizenship question from the 2020 Census.

Individual email comments may be sent to under Subject: “Comments for USBC-2018-0005-0001”. To read the full request for comments visit portal.

Note: The above email form is presented under the leadership of the League of Women Voters of the US. Thank you LWV.

Comment period ends August 7.

NJ Voter Registration Deadline – October 16

Democracy only works if people participate. In some states it would be correct to say that democracy only works if people are allowed to participate. Fortunately, New Jersey is a state where voter registration is an easy enough process. The purpose of this article is to alert prospective voters as to how to register and to offer links to websites for registration forms and information.

October 16 is the voter registration deadline in New Jersey. Not much time is left if you wish to vote on Election Day, Tuesday, November 6.

The New Jersey Division of Elections has a webpage that provides information on how to register, who can register, where to register, voter frequently asked questions, etc. It’s a perfect place to start and the website gives you all the information you need to know. There you can complete a voter registration application form and mail it to your county election officials or you can complete a statewide voter registration application and mail it to the Division of Elections in Trenton. If you have questions the registration forms suggest you call toll free 1-877-NJVOTER (1-877-658-6837) or visit

Registered voters in New Jersey can vote by mail without needing a reason. Now there is no excuse not to vote. However, the vote by mail application must be received by the County Clerk for the county in which you live by October 30. For complete details visit the Vote By Mail Application webpage of the NJ Division of Elections.

First time voters can learn more by reading a Voting: It’s Your Right developed by the Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities and the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey or Voting in New Jersey published by the League of Women Voters of New Jersey.

Information on voter registration in other states is available from a number of sources. Visit Project Vote Smart ,, a project of the League of Women Voters or Rock the Vote. Act quickly as voter registration deadlines have already passed in a number of states, according to Long Distance Voter.

Make your voice heard. Register.