On Tuesday Sept. 22, the Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership at SPU was given the opportunity to host the kickoff to the third annual “Ballot Bowl” competition.

Tahesha Way, the Secretary of State in NJ, is the initial creator of the competition to get NJ residents to become more pro-active members of their democracy by registering to vote.

The contest is between 25 colleges and universities across the state to see which school can register the most people by October 13, with the award being, not just bragging rights, but now a larger population of voters.

Ginger Schnitzer, the Executive Director of the Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership, hosted the online event through Zoom where 118 people, including the speakers, attended.

Along with Secretary Way, other speakers featured in the event were SPU President Dr. Eugene Cornacchia, NJ Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, NJ Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti, New York Giants Offensive Tackle Nate Solder and included a special message from Gov. Phil Murphy.

Each speaker took their time to express the value in being a voter, and how now, more than ever, is the time for people to become involved in the political landscape.

“Ultimately, now is a great time to make a plan to vote,” said Secretary Way. “I'm a mom of four daughters, including two young voters. I firmly believe in the power of young voices and young voters because I see and hear you each and every day.”

She also offered advice on how to effectively vote by mail this coming election with the slogan, “Vote, sign, seal and return”. For returning your ballot, she pointed out a number of varying ways to do so. Those ways include: returning it by mail; submitting it to your county board of elections office; or dropping it off at your local polling facility. 

Later in the event, she took various questions submitted by students. These questions ranged from how to register when you are out of state, how to become a poll worker and how to check if you are registered.

Assemblywoman McKnight and Assemblyman Chiaravalloiti offered similar advice to students on the importance of voting. 

McKnight challenged viewers of the event to reach out to 10 people they know and ask them if they are registered. Chiaravalotti, an alumnus of SPU, advised voters to send in their ballots early to ensure the polling process runs smoothly.

Solder also shared his wisdom on participating in politics and becoming a voter.

“We have the responsibility to fight for righteousness,” said Solder. “To me, righteousness is defined by godliness and justice— and I think that's justice for all people. Those of us that have an opportunity to fight for those people that don't have justice need to do that.”

Gov. Murphy’s special message to student viewers sought to drive home the role they have in getting people involved.

“You and your classmates can play a crucial part in expanding our electorate and helping more citizens make their voices heard,” Murphy said. “I cannot wait to see what this year's group of students will be able to achieve.”

Secretary Way concluded the event, saying, “We all don't want to be spectators. We all need to be participants in this grand thing that we call our democracy to move the pendulum forward.”

In an exclusive with The Pauw Wow, Alley Lopez, an organizer for Project Vote and junior at SPU, shared why SPU hosting the Ballot Bowl means so much.

“I think [hosting the Ballot Bowl] is one of the greatest achievements that we could get right now,” said Lopez. “I think the Ballot Bowl is something that is going to show the physical representation and the readiness of everybody else on campus.”

Lopez also shared her thoughts on those who haven’t made the decision to register or might feel apathetic to voting. 

She stated, “If you pay taxes, you should vote. If you give your money to any store or your bodega on the street, you should vote. I think none of that, none of our government would be possible without voters...without people who got out there and said what they had to say, right there on a ballot.”

To register in NJ, you can fill out a form online by going to https://voter.svrs.nj.gov/register.

To find out if you are registered, go to https://voter.svrs.nj.gov/registration-check

To be a poll worker, go to https://nj.gov/state/elections/pollworker.shtml.

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