I remember the first time I voted. I was a senior in high school and had turned 18 just about a week before. I remember walking into my high school, alone, and trying to figure out what to do. I was excited and a little intimidated — and grateful to the patient volunteers who helped guide me that day.
Afterward, I felt like I had participated in something very big. It didn’t matter if my candidates won or lost (they lost). It was the act of showing up that counted.
I’ve voted in every election, in every place I’ve lived, ever since.
For several years in my late 20s, I lived in Atlanta while working at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Being in that city, with its rich history of civil rights work, brought into stark relief how much people had sacrificed to protect every citizen’s right to vote.
Atlanta was, after all, the center of activism by Martin Luther King Jr. and Rep. John Lewis, both of whom were part of the bloody protests that led to the passing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, which guaranteed the right to vote to all African Americans.
After that experience, the idea of not voting seems disrespectful.
New Jersey has more than 5.7 million registered voters, according the Department of State. If you are not among them, for some reason, there is still time. The deadline to register in time for the Nov. 6 election is Tuesday, Oct. 16.
To register in New Jersey you must be: ■ A United States citizen ■ At least 17 years old, and understand that you may not vote until reaching the age of 18 ■ A resident of the county for 30 days before the election ■ Not currently serving a sentence, probation or parole because of a felony conviction
To learn more, go to https://www.state.nj.us/state/elections.
Registering is just the first step. Once you’re in the system, it’s time to learn more about your candidates.
That’s where we come in. The Press provides an election guide, as well as multiple stories about candidates and issues. Last week at Stockton University, we co-sponsored a debate between Seth Grossman and state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, candidates to replace the retiring Rep. Frank LoBiondo in the 2nd Congressional District. If you missed the debate in person, you can still watch it on our website.
Our election coverage can be found online at www.pressofatlanticcity.com/politics/ and our election guide will publish in print on Sunday, Oct. 28.
Once you are informed about the candidates and the issues, then it’s time for action. In the general election last year, only 39 percent of registered voters in New Jersey actually cast a ballot. That number is too low.
Not sure where to go on Election Day? We’ll have listings for you, identifying polling times and places throughout South Jersey.
People sometimes say they don’t vote because it doesn’t make any difference. I agree that the system isn’t perfect. But democracy isn’t an institution. It’s an action. Nothing changes without our effort.
So, let’s go get it done.
Kris Worrell is executive editor and vice president, news.