On a picture perfect Saturday afternoon, more than a dozen people were hard at work inside the Deptford Free Public Library. They’ve been known to call themselves the Post-It Posse.
The local chapter of Action Together New Jersey was gathered to help spread the word to residents on the ease and convenience of voting by mail and early voting. Even though Election Day is a little less than a month away, New Jersey registered voters can submit their ballots starting on the 45th day before the election.
Translation: You could have voted as early as Sept. 22 and still can take care of your civic duty before trying to race to your polling station on Nov. 6.
“I looked into how we could increase voter participation and I know there’s a bill in U.S. Congress that wanted to extend the voting day, instead of on Tuesday to the following Thursday through Sunday,” said Uyen “Winn” Khuong, the executive director and co-founder of Action Together New Jersey. “And so I looked into New Jersey and found out that if you are a vote by mail voter, you actually have 45 days. Before every election. But no one talks about it and no one knows about it.”
And that’s where Action New Jersey decided it was a good idea to step in.
Action Together New Jersey (ATNJ.org) is a community organization for civic education that was founded on Nov. 7, 2016. Its Facebook group is more than 18,000 people strong.
About the same time Action Together New Jersey was being founded, data was released from the 2016 presidential election.
Like a lot of people, Khuong was more than a little discouraged that roughly 43 percent of eligible voters in the United States (about 100 million people) did not cast a ballot.
“I have to tell you that, as an immigrant, it’s very discouraging to me,” said Khuong, who was born in Vietnam and now lives in Madison. “This is my favorite country in the whole world. I’ve been to 49 states. I started being politically active when I was in grade school, writing to President Reagan and getting a response back. I’ve always written to my congressmen, senators. I’ve always done that.
“But since the 2016 presidential election we’ve seen another wave of everyday citizens, in a tipping point, mass level, saying, ‘Wait a second, votes count, votes matter.’ So I love that people have been awoken. And I want to reinforce, just within our structure in New Jersey, how to get people more involved in their government, their local government.
“It’s a beautiful Saturday (outside) here, and you have all of these people getting ready to write to district voters to tell the how to vote by mail. How great is that?”
The process was easy on Saturday at the library. Grab an official Application for Vote by Mail Ballot. Grab an Action Together New Jersey information sheet. Jot down a personal note on a Post-It. Package all of that into an envelope and send it through the mail system.
“This is very important,” said Deptford resident Rachel Green, an active member of the local chapter. “To have a volunteer grassroots organization helping to reach out to their neighbors and family in the community, saying ‘Look, guys this is important.’”
Although they are a non-partisan organization, Action Together New Jersey is admittedly a progressive group. It has zeroed in on Congressional Districts 2 through 5, 7, and 11 in their mail campaign, hoping to increase voter turnout.
They want to increase voter turnout, but that starts with educating people on how easy it is to vote. Even if you’re a busy, single parent or a senior citizen without transportation, you have 6-and-a-half weeks to fill out and either mail or hand-in your ballot.
In the current political climate, people like Green believe it’s even more important for people to take advantage of the ease of voting in New Jersey.
“If nothing else in history, I would say the president and others are going to go down as individuals that were such a catalyst that it woke America up, it woke people up,” Green said. “You can no longer say, ‘Oh I don’t do politics, I don’t get involved.’ If you’re doing that, then your eyes are closed and you have blinders on.
“This is affecting you personally, not only in your pocket, but your family. I’m raising a son, an African American male. Every time he leaves the house I’m concerned. And I‘m sure I’m not the only person of color who feels like that. So you can’t sit on the sidelines; you have to get involved.”
New Jersey residents can get an Application for Vote By Mail Ballot (which could also be just called an Application for Early Vote Ballot) at their local library, at their board of elections, or at the state’s website with the click of a mouse.