Did you vote? Are you going to vote? Who did you vote for? When are you voting?
May 13, 2014 is Election Day in Trenton, NJ. The questions above will be heard many times between now and then. In 2010, 28.14% of registered voters actually voted. Some will say we got what we got because we did not care enough to vote, but that is not my subject today.
Today’s article is about making you a more informed, educated voter and explain the value of actually voting.
On May 13, the citizens of Trenton will elect a Mayor and seven Council members: one from each ward and three at large. For each of us, that is five individuals we need to be informed about and select when in the voting booth. So how do we go about making an informed decision?
Throughout the campaigning season candidates interact with the voters in a number of ways. They post signs on lawns and buildings, they develop websites, Facebook and twitter accounts, go to community events and forums, walk the streets, make phone calls to ask for your support, pass out and mail literature, have others do all of this for them. All to convince you they are the person for the job.
So how do you really make an informed decision? First, let me tell you how not to. Just because a candidate went to school with you, is a cousin, lives next door, bought you a meal, promised you a job, goes to the same church, your friend said to vote for them, or looks good are rarely good reasons to vote for a candidate.
Your vote is secret. The tally in the voting booth is secret. No one can tell how you voted. Someone may say they can tell how you voted, but unless you tell them, it’s not true. Is a free meal worth your vote? Did that meal come with a stated plan to decrease crime, improve housing and your quality of life, or was it just a free lunch, geared to get your vote because you feel you now owe that candidate?
Can promises really be kept; is family and friendship really the way to choose the best candidate? Let’s try a better way.
Throughout the campaign season there have been many ways to learn about candidates and how they will govern our City. Most candidates have web sites. Beautiful Trenton developed a web site called TrentonVotes.com. In conjunction with TCNJ, an effort was made to present candidate information in a strictly fair and non-judgmental manner. Check it out. Check out all the candidate websites. They can provide information and maybe answer your questions.
Did you attend any of the candidate forums or debates? Several of these were sponsored by organizations at locations throughout the city. Candidates were asked questions and each responded to the same question. This was a great opportunity to compare candidate positions, how they interacted with each other and the audience, how their positions met your needs. Some candidates held individual town meetings; others gave you the opportunity to ask them questions when they walked your neighborhood. Articles were run in the local papers giving a brief overview of candidates by office and ward. Facebook provided a sometimes fiery discourse influenced by the commenter’s candidate of choice. Multiple comments were made by one candidate about another. Sometimes these need to be taken “with a grain of salt”, but also, sometimes are words to ponder. Did you check facts? Did you ask what if questions? There is much to learn about a candidate, but often you have to dig deeply.
When all is said and done, we will decide on May 13 the individuals we want to lead our City for the next four years. Are the incumbents still right for the job? Is a newcomer what we need? Is someone with experience in City government right for us? The questions go on and on.
In the end you must vote your conscience. Vote for the individual you feel will move Trenton forward to greatness.
Remember you have five to vote for. One Mayor, one Council candidate for the Ward you live in and three Council-at-Large seats. The rules say at least one candidate must get 50% plus one to be a winner. If this does not happen, there will be a runoff. For Mayor, it is the top two, for ward offices, the top two and for at large the top six.
Polls are open from 6:00am to 8:00pm. A few weeks before the election, you will get a sample ballot in the mail telling you where your polling place is located. Read the sample; even take it with you to vote. Personally, I feel a turnout of 28.14% is a disgrace. If you vote, you can complain. If you do not, I think you have abdicated your right as a citizen and deserve the results. Show others you truly care about your City. VOTE!!
Elizabeth M Yull
TCCA Recording Secretary and member of Beautiful Trenton