Good Government Coalition of New Jersey Introduces Statewide Campaign for Transparency and Accountability in 2017 NJ Elections
— Voters Can Access Information about Statewide Candidates on New Website —
TRENTON — The Good Government Coalition of New Jersey (GGCNJ) today introduced a new website designed to provide New Jersey’s voters with a centralized information hub about candidates for legislative and local offices in the state. The site, www.ggcnj.org, aims to provide citizens with hard-to-get information about how to contact candidates and find out more about them. The site also includes details on candidates’ backgrounds as well as their positions on key good government positions critical to GGCNJ.
“It’s remarkable to me that in the 21st Century the state provides no easy, centralized way to find out who’s running in your local legislative district — and other races — and where they stand on important issues,” said Yael Niv, one of the cofounders of the GGCNJ. “We often lament low participation rate in local elections. This can be directly tied to a lack of easy transparency about candidates and their positions,” she said.
“Lack of information disrespects and disenfranchises voters, and increases partisanship. If I don’t know where a candidate stands on issues important to me, I’m more likely to vote based on a candidate’s party rather than on her or his positions. This helps fuel a closed political system in New Jersey that can be easily dominated by money and by power brokers, and where the will of the public is often ignored,” Niv said.
“Information is nonpartisan,” said Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-16). “A better-educated electorate helps me to do my job better as a legislator, and lets me better reflect the citizens I represent. I commend GGCNJ’s efforts to increase the availability of information pertinent to New Jersey’s voters,” he said.
“This new website has great potential to shine a bright light on candidates and the electoral process, and help make government more responsive to its citizens,” said Senator Shirley K. Turner (D-15). “I applaud any effort that helps New Jersey’s voters make more informed decisions.”
Former Senator William E. Schluter, author of Soft Corruption, a new book about state politics, said: “New Jersey has long been a breeding ground for political corruption and government misconduct which is perfectly legal but ethically defective. GGCNJ’s interaction with legislative candidates on this important front is an important step in achieving positive outcomes for transparency and accountability.”
Niv noted that in a world that is increasingly online, GGCNJ believes that the state — either through ELEC or the Division of Elections — should be collecting and providing candidate information, rather than making this important pillar of democracy the burden of volunteer groups like GGCNJ and the League of Women Voters. GGCNJ also recommends that the state consider providing every state-level candidate with an email address where they can easily be reached and, perhaps, even a website.
The GGCNJ website currently lists 30 state and local candidates who have submitted information. The group awards “badges” on the site based solely on the candidates’ commitment to transparency and whether they have responded to the GGCNJ’s. The candidates are not evaluated on their positions on the issues, only their willingness to provide contact information, background information, and their policy positions.
“We are working hard to get information from all the candidates,” Niv said. “Unfortunately, we cannot contact most candidates because there is no publicly available electronic contact information for them. Ironically, our effort falls victim to the very problem we are trying to solve. But we had to start somewhere, and we will continue to build this site until it becomes institutionalized. We are calling on all candidates to email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive our questionnaire and be represented on our site. We are also calling on all New Jersey voters to make use of our site to make informed decisions in the coming elections.”
The GGCNJ is a nonpartisan, grassroots group whose mission is to strengthen democracy by working with residents across our state to bring greater transparency, accountability, and participation to our state and local governments. The group believes that, structurally, the distribution of political power in New Jersey is extremely uneven: a lot of power is concentrated in the hands of a small group of people. Greater public participation, as well as future legislation, is needed to address this systemic problem.
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Organizations and groups that support the GGCNJ’s mission include:
- NJ Citizen Action
- NJ Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG) Students
- Save Our Schools NJ
- STAND Central New Jersey
The GGCNJ Mission Statement is available at http://www.ggcnj.org/mission/;
The survey candidates are asked to fill out for the website is available at http://www.ggcnj.org/survey/.