June 27, 2019 | 89° F

Tomorrow is the last day to register to vote in the N.J. elections — Here is what you need to know

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The New Jersey elections are set to take place on Nov. 7 and the ballot will include the highly anticipated gubernatorial race along with 120 state legislature seats.

Tomorrow is the final day to register to vote in the upcoming New Jersey elections on Tuesday, Nov. 7. In addition to the gubernatorial election, all 120 seats in the state legislature will be on the ballots, as well as local and county positions.

RU Voting, a core project of the Eagleton Institute of Politics' Center for Youth Political Participation (CYPP), provides nonpartisan resources to help students register to vote, find the correct polling location and make educated decisions on Voting Day.

“This fall, New Jersey is one of only two states in the country electing a governor, and the entire state legislature is up for election,” said Dr. Elizabeth Matto, the director of CYPP.

Matto emphasized the importance of political participation among young adults.

“I encourage students to think about the implications of the political process at the state and local levels, especially given the fact that they are students at a state university. So much of a student’s day-to-day life is impacted by the political decisions made by public officials at the state and local levels,” she said.

Matto urged every student to tune in to the election if they haven’t already. “But the thing is, you have to move fast," she said.

If a student wants to vote in the Nov. 7 election this year, Matto said they must be registered to vote by tomorrow, Oct.17.

“It’s really important that students know, in New Jersey, you cannot register to vote online," Matto said. Students can access the registration form online, available on the RU Voting website. Registration applications must be postmarked by Oct. 17 for the General Election.

RU Voting will be available today on the steps of Brower Dining Hall on the College Avenue campus from 9 to 11 a.m. to help students register to vote, said Brendan Keating, program coordinator for CYPP and RU Voting.

Students can also drop off completed voter registration forms to the Eagleton Institute of Politics at the Woodlawn Mansion on Douglass campus. RU Voting will collect forms there until noon tomorrow, at which time the forms will be transported to the Middlesex County Board of Elections, Keating said.

“Although the voter registration form is very short, it is often confusing for students,” said Monica Beshay, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and an RU Ready student ambassador who has worked with RU Voting for two years.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about voting, and we want to make sure that everyone is able to (exercise) their right," she said.

Indeed, both voter registration rates and election participation rates among Rutgers students have been on the rise, according to a study published on the RU Voting website. The study found that 76 percent of Rutgers students were registered to vote in 2016. Fifty-four percent voted in the presidential election, which was a 7 percent increase from 2012.

“Our registration rates are pretty strong,” Matto said. “It’s just about making sure students who are registered get to the polls.”

Looking ahead to Election Day, Matto said it is important to come up with a voting plan. This includes knowing the proper polling location, and how to get there.

“One thing that’s really important for students to understand is that they have to vote where they are registered,” she said.

Matto explained that if a student anticipates not being able to get to their polling location, either due to a busy schedule or a transportation issue, they can either register to vote by mail with an absentee ballot, or they can update their voting location via the registration form.

The deadline to apply for a Mail-in Ballot for the General Election is Oct. 31, according to the RU Voting website. Students can find all this information, as well as the required forms, on the website.

Matto stressed that even if a student has moved from one campus to another, they still need to update their voter registration.

“Even if last year you were registered to vote, and were living on the Livingston campus, and now this year, you live on College Avenue, you need to update your voter registration,” Matto said. “And that needs to be done by Oct.17.”

Keating said that when RU Voting organized the gubernatorial debate-watching event last Tuesday, he and his colleagues were alarmed to find that one of the most commonly incorrectly answered trivia questions was whether one could register to vote online. “But in New Jersey, you can’t register to vote online,” he said.

“So if you’re waiting until the last minute to register to vote, you can either do it at the DMV, print out the form and drop it off at Eagleton, or mail it. The postage is already paid for.”

He also added that students already registered should always double check to see where they are registered to vote, to avoid going to the wrong polling location on Election Day.

Keatings encouraged students to utilize the RU Voting website as a comprehensive, nonpartisan, and Rutgers-specific resource for all voting information and to call or email RU Voting with any questions.

The center will host a viewing party for the second Gubernatorial Debate on Wednesday, Oct.18, Keating said. The event will take place in the Graduate Student Lounge in the College Avenue Student Center. Trivia starts at 6:30 p.m. and the debate begins at 7 p.m. There will be light snacks, prizes and the opportunity to fill out the mail-in ballot application.

Beshay noted that although students tend not to focus on state and local races as much as the presidential election, local races tend to have a more direct impact on their lives.

“For example, the upcoming election can impact Rutgers tuition, loans, state taxes and the environment," she said. "If (students) are not happy with the current climate, they have a chance to make their voice heard.”

Christina Gaudino

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