Princeton Politics: Everything you Need to Know to Cast Your Vote
Your mail-in ballot has arrived. Should you fill it out and mail it, place it in a drop box or wait and go to the polls on November 3rd?
It is a big year as we vote to keep President Donald Trump or elect former Vice President Joe Biden, but there is more at stake than the Presidency. New Jerseyans are voting for one Senator, and in the 12th District we are choosing to re-elect our Congresswoman or replace her. Additionally, we have several county and municipal political offices at stake.
Who are the local candidates and what do they stand for? What is different his year and how will it all work? Every detail you need to know to vote is here.
To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy decided that Vote-By-Mail will be the primary mechanism for the 2020 November elections. A mail-in ballot has been sent to every registered voter without the need for a request, that’s 230,00 ballots sent out in Mercer County. There are no sample ballots this year, the one you receive in the mail is your real ballot. If yours hasn’t yet arrived, it should soon, though you must have registered by October 13th to qualify. To submit your vote, you have 4 options:
- Fill in the mail-in ballot and mail it back via the United State Postal Service. Postage is pre-paid, but the ballot must be postmarked by November 3rdand received by 8:00 p.m. on November 10th.
- Fill in the mail-in ballot then personally drop it into a secure Mercer County drop box. In Princeton, one is located at 400 Witherspoon Street. There are additional drop box locations throughout Mercer County and more may be added. You can find a complete list here.
- Fill in the mail-in ballot then personally walk into your designated polling location on Election Day, by 8pm (these have been consolidated to only 5 Princeton sites, detailed here by district). You will have to sign a book before dropping it into a small, secure lock box at the polling location.
- You can go to your polling location and cast a provisional paper ballot. Voting booths are available only for citizens with a documented audio or visual impairment.
The Mercer County Clerk’s office has stated that every ballot will be counted, whether mail-in, provisional or via voting booth. However, Vote-by-Mail will be counted first.
“Vote-by-Mail has already been vetted,” explains Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello. “For provisional paper ballots, registration must be checked. And you must sign a certification that you are disabled in order to vote in the booth, but poll workers are going to call the Board of Elections if a disabled voter arrives to ensure they did not already vote by mail.”
Very specific directions must be followed for your mail-in ballot to count, so do so carefully:
- Do NOT use red ink or pencil, only blue or black ink will be allowed.
- Votes must be completely colored in, no crosses or checkmarks are accepted.
- Place your voting ballot inside the initial envelope which you seal and sign (with likeness to the signature on file with your registration).
- Place that envelope inside the mailing envelope that is addressed to the Board of Elections. Be sure your name on the interior envelope shows through the window of the exterior envelope.
To avoid concern about whether or not your mail-in vote has been received, a tracking system has been set up. You can click here to register and track your ballot.
The municipality of Princeton will be bringing in a new leader, with Mayor Liz Lempert not running for re-election and her term ending on January 1, 2021. Two seats are also opening up on Princeton Council. There were no Republicans or other party candidates entered into the primary for any of the three seats (though there was a contest amongst the Democrats for Council), and there is one Democrat running for each current opening. Your vote demonstrates support but there is no minimum vote required for them to win.
Mayor of Princeton is elected for a four-year term. In that role the official presides over all operations of the municipal government, including the Council and all those that have been appointed as officers of the municipality. This role is also responsible for seeing that all local ordinances and state laws are properly executed.
Mayoral Candidate: Mark Freda (D) is running unopposed
Mark Freda says he has spent his adult life preparing to hold the position of Mayor of Princeton. Starting out as a volunteer on the Princeton Fire Department and Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad in the 70’s, he went on to spend 13 years on Borough Council. Amongst other positions, Freda has volunteered on the Public Works Committee and Planning Board and was the Township’s first Director of Emergency Services. Professionally he spent years in facilities management and now works locally leading a non-profit.
“Being an elected official is something I actually enjoy doing. The work is interesting and meaningful,” says Freda. “My goals are pretty simple. Represent everyone in our community. Be open and honest at all times.”
As Mayor, Freda hopes to expand the municipality’s relationship with Princeton University, the county and the school board. He is also focused on affordable housing, expanding the town’s transportation system and building on our new Climate Action Plan. To be effective, Freda says he plans to work hard to do what is best for his community.
“Leadership is about communicating, it is about truly listening to others, it is finding the balance between exploring an issue and then acting on that issue,” he adds. “I’m the first to admit that I am not an expert on every topic and listening to people that know more than me is an important part of my leadership style.”
Princeton Council works very closely with the Mayor. The six member-panel advises and approves appointments of municipal subordinate officers and serves as the legislators of local ordinances. Two current council members are running uncontested for re-election to their two available spots.
Princeton Council Candidates: David Cohen (D) and Leticia Fraga (D)
David Cohen is an architect by profession, currently in the position of Council President serving as a liaison between the Council, Mayor, and municipal staff. He played a key role in coordinating the settlement agreement for Princeton’s Affordable Housing obligation.
“It was an arduous process to reach an agreement which met the goals of all the parties in a way that will truly enable us to adhere to Smart Growth principles, protect the schools from drastic enrollment shocks, spare the taxpayers, and most importantly, welcome those of more modest means to share in our wonderful community,” explains Cohen. Closely involved with the Climate Action Plan the Council endorsed with the help of Sustainable Princeton, he seeks to continue implementing its recommendations in a new term.
“We see the impacts of Climate Change pummeling many parts of our country right now with wildfires and hurricanes, but the northeast is not immune,” Cohen notes. “We have seen a dramatic increase in the frequency of extreme rainfall events in recent years, which stress our infrastructure, do millions of dollars of damage, and endanger our residents.”
Leticia Fraga looks forward to serving alongside Cohen for another 3-year term. Her last campaign focused on affordability, inclusiveness and quality of life and she feels that with the assistance of a strong municipal workforce and the variety of volunteers she’s collaborated with, she accomplished a lot.
“Together, we have worked to increase our affordable housing stock; addressed the issue of food insecurity in our community; and most recently, I have been working with colleagues and community partners on strategies to ensure our residents and business community can recover from the pandemic’s economic devastation,” explains Fraga.
Seeking community-driven solutions, Fraga worked with the Princeton Police Department and Public Safety Committee to develop more trust and respect with the community. She hopes to continue her work on equity, affordability and inclusion while also offering continued assistance navigating the pandemic.
“It is unclear just how long we may need to react to the rapidly changing economic landscape,” she states. “Our utmost priority must be to ensure the wellbeing of all of our residents during this health and economic crisis, while also continuing to provide essential services.”
Some of these services are additionally provided for by Mercer County and there are candidates to consider in our county races as well.