Election 2020 Voting Starts This Week
By Donald Gilpin
As election campaigns heat up in the month before the November 3 Election Day, local voting in this mainly vote-by-mail election is beginning this week.
As officials issue ballots and prepare to monitor voting and tally the results, controversies over voting are becoming increasingly intense throughout the country. With the White House casting doubt on the integrity of the election process, many concerned citizens worry that democracy itself is at stake in the 2020 election.
“Every election is important,” said Chrystal Schivell of the League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area, “but for this one, during a pandemic, the League urges voters to plan now. County clerks and the New Jersey Division of Elections want every vote to count. Voters can help by following instructions and acting promptly.”
Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello has announced that ballots will be going out this week to all registered Mercer County voters. Sample ballots are available now on the Mercer County Clerk’s website.
“There’s no overstating the importance of this election,” she said in a press release Monday. “The presidency and several congressional seats are up for grabs, but so too are important state and local races.”
The Rev. Robert Moore, executive director of the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA), was even more adamant about the urgency of this election. “To claim that ‘this election is the most important in our lifetime’ is often hyperbole,” he said, “but this time I don’t think it is. We’re at a place where we have an utterly incompetent right-wing ideologue in the presidency. He has no respect for democratic norms or the Constitution.”
Moore continued, “It is clear that this is somebody who should not be president of the United States, on so many counts. Among them is his position on gun violence and peace issues. This is a very dangerous period, and he’s impulsive, irrational, anti-science. There are so many things troubling about Donald Trump’s leadership.”
CFPA initiatives this year include the Peace Voter Campaign, conducted by the CFPA since 1995 and this year focusing on Bucks County, Pennsylvania, which Moore described as “a swing area in a swing state.” The CFPA Peace Voter Guide compares the candidates on ten different issues, with particular emphasis on issues of peace and violence. It will be published as a signature ad in at least one, possibly two, Bucks County newspapers.
The first three issues are all related to gun violence, which, Moore says, suburban women in particular have been very responsive to. Based on CFPA research of the candidates’ statements and actions, the Peace Voter Guide notes that Biden supports a National Assault Weapons Ban, universal background checks for all gun sales, and a “red flag” law allowing judges to order removal of guns from anyone posing imminent danger. Trump is opposed to those measures, the Peace Voter Guide reports.
Also, for the second New Jersey congressional district, the CFPA is publishing a Peace Voter Guide electronically, comparing the views of candidates Amy Kennedy (D) and Jeff Van Drew (R). “We are non-partisan,” Moore emphasized. “We try to make sure voters are educated on the issues.”
In this primarily vote-by-mail election, voters have the option of mailing in their ballots, returning their completed ballots to their polling place on Election Day, or placing their ballots in one of 15 secure drop boxes throughout the County. Princeton’s is located at the municipal building at 400 Witherspoon Street, and there will be five polling places in Princeton.
Covello noted that the Mercer County Clerk’s Office had been unusually busy over the last two months preparing for the election, mailing out 228,000 ballots initially and continuing to mail out ballots to newly registered voters. Her office has been working with the Mercer County superintendent of elections and the board of elections to gather new voter registration information and to ensure that drop boxes are open and in place.
“We have also been busy returning phone inquiries and email inquiries from voters, and I have been speaking to groups all over Mercer County on the changes in the way this upcoming general election will be conducted,” she added.
The deadline for registering to vote is October 13, with New Jersey now offering online registration at voter.svrs.nj.gov/register. Ballots returned through the mail must be postmarked by Election Day, November 3, and received no later than November 10 to be counted.
Registered voters can also vote by provisional ballot in person on Election Day, but only disabled voters will be allowed to use a voting machine.
The Princeton League of Women Voters is offering at lwvprinceton.org/voter-information a video showing how to correctly fill out, enclose, and seal a mail-in ballot. “To avoid problems, vote promptly and sign carefully and clearly; your ballot is accepted only if signatures match,” said Schivell.
The most difficult choices for many Princeton voters may be in the race for three positions on the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education. The eight candidates who are vying for those spots will appear in a virtual forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area and Princeton TV on Wednesday, September 30 at 7:30 p.m.
The forum can be viewed on Comcast channel 30 (Princeton only) and Verizon FiOS channel 45 and will be streamed on princetontv.org and at facebook.com/PrincetonTelevision. The candidates’ written responses to League of Women Voters questions are available at VOTE411.org.
In other Princeton races on the ballot, Mark Freda is running unopposed for Princeton mayor and incumbents David Cohen and Leticia Fraga are running unopposed for two spots on Princeton Council.