TRENTON – Attorney General Peter C. Harvey and Division of Elections Director Ramon de la Cruz announced today that, by virtue of its exceptional work on behalf of the 2004 National Student/Parent Mock Election, New Jersey has been named to receive the 2004 National Association of State Boards of Education Award for Outstanding Leadership.
Harvey, the State’s Chief Election Official, said New Jersey was cited by the Association for playing a “pivotal role” in the success of the 2004 Mock Election. As National Headquarters for the event, the Division of Elections within the Attorney General’s Office collected and processed Mock Election votes from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and participating American schools around the world. Altogether, more than 4 million votes were cast.
The National Student/Parent Mock Election is a non-partisan, non-profit event in which 60 national civic, educational and other organizations participate including the National Association of State Boards of Education, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters. The 2004 Mock Election program was funded through the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002.
“It is a privilege for us here in New Jersey to play a lead role in an event as important as the National Student/Parent Mock Election,” said Attorney General Harvey. “What is vital about the Mock Election is its potential to pay future dividends for democracy by generating interest among non-voting-age students today. We are committed to making the electoral process as inclusive, as accessible, and as user-friendly as possible. The earlier we can get young people involved by knowing how the voting process works, and what the issues are, the better.”
Attorney General Harvey noted that the State has been working on many fronts to have as many eligible New Jerseyans as possible registered to vote – and to actually vote on Election Day. These efforts, organized as part of the Attorney General’s “Be Powerful, Be Heard” pro-voting initiative, have included: celebrity Public Service Announcements on radio and television, public forums on such issues as avoiding voter fraud and understanding changes in voting technology, and a spoken word competition with the theme “Power of the Vote.”
“Our Mock Election activities are consistent with these efforts,” said Division of Elections Director de la Cruz, “ because the Mock Election is an excellent means of emphasizing the act of voting, as well as the importance of participation in our democracy.”
De la Cruz explained that the Mock Election motivates millions of students across the United States to become familiar with the candidates for President and for other national offices, to learn about the positions taken by candidates on key public issues, to discuss what they’ve learned, and to cast an informed vote. In 2002, New Jersey led the nation in Mock Election participation with 100,000 students casting ballots, a turnout that resulted in the State being honored by the National Association of State Boards of Education for “Outstanding Contribution to Voter Education.”
“The National Student/Parent Mock Election is, by any measure, one of the nation’s largest and most successful voter education projects,” said de la Cruz. “However, we recognize that generating interest and awareness in the electoral process – particularly among young people -- is an ongoing challenge. Ultimately, elections influence all of our lives, so it is crucial that students learn more about how they work. The Mock Election can help them do that.”
According to de la Cruz, a delegation of educators from Japan spent time in the Trenton public schools during the 2004 Mock Election to learn more about how the program works. At Trenton Central High School, the Japanese educators observed a mock Presidential election, as well as a question-and-answer session devoted to the electoral process. At Washington Elementary School, the Japanese delegation witnessed a mock Presidential debate and election. In addition, students from Gilmore J. Fisher Middle School, Ewing High School, Steinert High School and Notre Dame High School had an opportunity to work in the Division of Elections offices while assisting with mock-election-related tasks.
John Herklotz, Vice-Chairman for the National Student/Parent Mock Election, credited the Division of Elections for effectively handling the task of collecting 2004 Mock Election votes from across the country and overseas via fax, e-mail and phone. In addition, he said, the Division created Mock Election ballots for all states that could be downloaded by educators and used for their individual Mock Election projects. The Division also helped maintain constant communication between Mock Election coordinators and schools nationwide.
“We were delighted by the Division of Elections’ Mock Election project, and we hope to share its methods with educators and public officials throughout the country,” said Herklotz.
In the Mock Election, participating schools and students have the flexibility to include debates, forums, mock press conferences, cable call-in programs, get-out-the-vote campaigns and other efforts among activities leading up to actual voting. Information about the National Student/Parent Mock Election, as well as the State’s various pro-voting initiatives, is available by visiting the Division of Elections Web site www.NJElections.org .