Vox Populi
A Letter to the Editor

Response to 'Garden State Election Follies... Continued'
Friday, October 4, 2002

by Kenneth Stremsky

[Reference: Commentary of 3 October 2002 - Editor]

You wrote "Lautenberg, at last report, has indicated that he doesn't want to have to spend much-if any-of his own considerable wealth unless he is formally placed on the General Election ballot in Torricelli's place; indeed, he is most likely barred from doing so if Torricelli's name remains on the ballot."

Mr. Lautenberg may spend as much of his own money as he wants promoting a write in campaign for himself because of Amendment One of the United States Constitition which allows a candidate for elective office to spend as much of the candidate's own money on the candidate's campaign as the candidate wants. Mr. Lautenberg may ask people to contribute money to a write in campaign. Any money contributed to a write in campaign for Mr. Lautenberg could also be used by him if his name is on the general election ballot.

I think New Jersey Senate debates would receive a lot of media coverage. A candidate who is not willing to participate in debates would probably not receive many votes.

The Republican Party is being very stupid fighting to keep Mr. Lautenberg's name off the ballot. They are giving the impression that they think Mr. Forrester cannot win if Mr. Lautenberg is on the ballot. The harder the Republican Party fights to keep Mr. Lautenberg's name off the ballot the more people who will probably vote for Mr. Lautenberg.

Niccolo Machiavelli might have disagreed with me. The following excerpt comes from pages 135 and 136 of 'The Portable Machiavelli' and comes from The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli.

"A prince, therefore, must be very careful never to let anything slip from his lips which is not full of the five qualities mentioned above: he should appear, upon seeing and hearing him, to be all mercy, all faithfulness, all integrity, all kindness, all religion. And there is nothing more necessary than to seem to possess this last quality. And men in general judge more by their eyes than their hands; for everyone can see but few can feel. Everyone sees what you seem to be, few perceive what you are, and those few do not dare to contradict the opinion of the many who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, when there is no impartial arbiter, one must consider the final result. Let a prince therefore act to seize and to maintain the state; his methods will always be judged honorable and will be praised by all; for ordinary people are always deceived by appearances and by the outcome of a thing; and in the world there is nothing but ordinary people; and there is no room for the few, while the many have a place to lean on."

If the Republican Party is smart it will stop challenging the placement of Mr. Lautenberg's name on the ballot and challenge him to debate Mr. Forrester at least three times on television. Hopefully, one of the debates would have just questions from audience members. Hopefully, one debate would have just the candidates asking each other questions. Hopefully, each debate will last two hours.

I do not think the Republican Party in New Jersey wants to be remembered for making it hard for people to vote. In combat, the high ground is often the best ground. In political combat, the high moral ground is often the best ground.

by Kenneth Stremsky

Mr. Berg-Andersson responds:

My thinking is that former Senator Lautenberg does not at all want to run a write-in campaign, nor would the Democratic Party of New Jersey as a whole either. A write-in campaign in New Jersey would involve trying to educate the State's voters, and in a relatively short time, about voting via a rather cumbersome procedure which varies from county to county because of differing voting systems used in each of the State's 21 counties.

My own county- Morris, a wealthy, suburban reliably Republican jurisdiction- has communities which have the use of the newest, most modern computerized voting machines (in my own election precinct, these have now been in use for some three years- since the June 1999 Primary, if I recall): you look down at the ballot (it is even slightly tilted to make it easier to both see and read) and push a button next to the candidate of one's choice on the ballot so that an 'X' lights up next to the candidate's name, then- once you have made sure that all the 'X's you might want to have lit up lit up properly- you push a red button and your vote is electronically sent out to wherever the votes are being tallied (as far as I can tell, there isn't even any hard copy of the results of one's voting as there would have been with the old mechanical voting machines).

Write-in voting via these new machines is as simple as typing an e-mail address into the "To:" field of your basic e-mail message template. You simply make sure an 'X' lights up next to "write-in" on the proper line of the ballot re: the office for which you are going to write in a candidate's name and then use a small keyboard-type arrangement to simply type out the name. But I well remember the much more cumbersome system of write-in voting via the old mechanical machines which preceded the introduction of these new machines; even if I hadn't, a strange episode in the history of the politics of my Congressional District would certainly have reminded me:

Back in 1994, incumbent Republican Congressman Dean Gallo was running for re-election when he found out he was battling cancer not too long before the June Primary; he decided to remain on the Primary ballot and was renominated only to decide- come August- that he could no longer be a candidate for re-election, at which point he withdrew his candidacy (per- guess what?- NJSA 19:13-20, the Republican Party committeemen and committeewomen of the Congressional District chose Assemblyman Rodney Frelinghuysen to be the replacement candidate on the Republican line of the November 1994 General Election ballot [yes, this was done well before the 51st day before Election Day!])

It was the other Major Party, the Democrats- of course, which was responsible for the bizarre episode that year: the candidate for Congress endorsed by the regular Democratic organization that year had to petition to get on the Primary ballot and another candidate, a conservative Democrat who was principally known as a so-called "Holocaust revisionist", managed to prove that many of the signatures on the regular Democrat's petition were not valid and succeeded in getting the regular Democrat knocked off the Primary ballot. The result was that the Holocaust revisionist would, absent any other candidate to provide opposition (by the time the petition signature issue had been resolved, it was too late for the local Democrats to get another candidate on the Primary ballot), have been the Democrats' candidate for Congress in 1994 by simple default. This possibility offended quite a number of local Democrats in my Congressional District and a movement was launched to put forth a write-in campaign for a former State Senator in order to challenge the Holocaust revisionist in the June 1994 Primary (this write-in campaign proved successful, by the way: the former State Senator became the Democrat nominee for Congress although he lost to Rodney Frelinghuysen- who is still the Congressman from my District- in the November 1994 General Election).

What I most remember from this whole episode was local Democratic Party operatives going about the District educating registered Democratic voters about how to go about casting a write-in vote: many of the problems they ran into in carrying out this write-in campaign had to do with the differing voting systems in different counties (at the time, my Congressional District included the whole of Morris County but also included nearby portions of Essex, Passaic, Somerset and Sussex Counties- so there were voting systems in 5 of the State's 21 counties to contend with). If I recall, in some jurisdictions, you had to wait until you had pulled all the levers next to all the offices other than the one(s) for which you wanted to do a write-in before you could open the write-in slot (in at least some cases, if you opened the write-in slot first, you would not be able to vote for any other offices for which you had not yet cast votes) but this was not the case in other jurisdictions.

Now, bringing the gist of this story up to the present: those old voting machines we used to use here in Morris County didn't necessarily simply disappear once the new electronic voting system was put into place. Many areas of the State still use the old mechanical "clunker"s and I dare say that: a.) many- if not most- of these mechanical voting devices are still used in election precincts of considerably less median income than mine and b.) most voters of more limited financial means- at least judging from the Election Statistics- tend to vote for Democrats rather than Republicans. As a result, I don't think the Democratic Party of New Jersey in general- let alone Mr. Lautenberg in particular- will want to suddenly have to begin a massive voter education drive regarding how to register a write-in vote in their particular precinct (I would have to assume that a Democratic write-in campaign would tend to be concentrated in those areas that are more likely to vote for Democrats- the very areas that don't necessarily have the electronic voting system used in my precinct and which makes write-in voting a comparative snap [if you can use a computer as a word processor, you can do a write-in on these newer voting machines]).

Thus, what I think will happen is that either Frank Lautenberg will be permitted to replace Bob Torricelli on the ballot or he won't. If he does, then there's no problem- at least insofar as the voting machines throughout New Jersey are concerned (of course, the issue of absentee, military and overseas ballots might very well be another matter- these being among the issues being brought forth by the Republicans in their various lawsuits and appeals); if he doesn't, then Torricelli's name will be on the ballot: it will just have to be understood by those who do not wish to vote for Doug Forrester that, should Torricelli then win the election, he will not serve (Torricelli would likely be pressed to resign from the Senate a few days or so before the 3 January 2003 start of the new 108th Congress [a not all that unusual practice, in which a retiring Senator resigns to allow the new Senator from his State to get a slight "leg up" in seniority over most of the other newly elected incoming Senators] and would also, at the same time, refuse his commission as Senator-elect, allowing Governor McGreevey to appoint Mr. Lautenberg to the vacancies [plural] that would then result. Lautenberg would then have to face a Special Election down the road to finish out the full six-year term if his name does not, indeed, appear on the November ballot)...

of course, this whole scenario only occurs if Doug Forrester, in fact, loses. In the end, as I've already said in both my Commentaries on this subject this past week, these legal machinations between the Democrats and the Republicans over whose name is actually on the November General Election ballot as the Democrat candidate for the U.S. Senate really have no direct effect on the Politics of the U.S. Senate race here in the Garden State; the voters of the State will, of course, ultimately determine who the next Senator from New Jersey will be: if more people choose the Democrat (regardless of which name appears on that line on the ballot), then Lautenberg will presumably return to the Senate in which he once served; if more people choose Doug Forrester, then the Senate seat now held by Torricelli will switch to Republican... and that's as it should be!

But the dilemma for Lautenberg is that, should he not wage a write-in campaign (and I wouldn't expect that he would- for the reasons I have already cited earlier in this response), the Democrats will largely be at a huge disadvantage when it comes to raising money for the remaining weeks of the campaign and I have to believe that this salient fact is what is fueling much of the legal battle between the Republicans and Democrats that may (but, as of this typing, we still don't know if it will) be heading for the U.S. Supreme Court early next week.


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