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By Cynthia M. Rogers, voter service chair, Montclair Area League of Women Voters

No doubt diligent voters in Montclair and throughout New Jersey are still questioning how our presidential election system resulted in the election of a candidate who did not win the popular vote and, indeed, garnered only 41 percent of our state’s votes.  While the League of Women Voters officially supports the direct election of the president (more on that later), it is urgent that New Jersey voters now direct their focus on the elections of 2017, where one person/one vote does hold.

2017 is an election year for New Jersey, and on Nov. 7 we elect a new governor, as well as the entire state Senate and Assembly. June 6 is Primary Election Day, when voters who have registered as Democrat or Republican can cast their vote for the candidate they want to see on the ballot in November. If you are not currently registered to vote, May 16 and Oct. 17 are, respectively, the last days to register to vote prior to those election dates.

Why should you vote in New Jersey in 2017? Consider how state government impacts our lives. Will we maintain the overall effectiveness of our public schools? Will we protect the open spaces and natural resources of our Garden State? Will we have a safe and efficient highway and mass transportation system? Will there be adequate affordable housing for all of our residents? What about those most vulnerable: the poor, children in foster care, behavioral health consumers, those in residential treatment centers? Will we maintain humane standards of safety and care? What about our criminal justice system, our court system, our state economy, and how we raise money for all of the above?

To vote in the NJ state elections of 2017 is to directly impact state policy on all of these issues, particularly as the federal government shifts more responsibility to the states.

Additionally, if you prefer to focus on the national scene, consider that on Nov. 6, 2018, the entire US House of Representatives — including Rep. Donald Payne Jr. of the 10th Congressional District and Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of the 11th — and one/third of the U.S. Senate (including Sen. Robert Menendez) will be up for re-election. This will be prime time for voters to evaluate the choices made in the 2016 federal elections and the actions that are taken over these two years.

Why does voting matter in New Jersey and every other state? As Benjamin Franklin famously answered a group a citizens who asked him what kind of government the Constitutional Convention had created, “a republic, if you can keep it.”

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization founded in 1920 when the long-fought battle for women’s suffrage finally resulted in the passage of the 19th Amendment. It encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase public understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

While the League is strictly nonpartisan, it does take positions on certain issues, particularly where voting is concerned. The League will therefore be in the vanguard of movements to increase voter registration and turnout, oppose efforts to restrict voting rights, and promote better understanding of the candidates and issues. In 1970 the League of Women Voters began advocating for the direct election of the president and vice president and the abolition of the Electoral College. The League also supports the National Popular Vote Compact as one acceptable means of achieving the direct election of the president short of the abolition of the Electoral College, which would require a constitutional amendment.

To read more about elections in New Jersey and the League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area, go to www.njelections.org and www.lwvmontclairarea.org.

Cynthia M. Rogers is the voter service chair on the Board of Directors of the League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area.

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