Monday, February 11, 2008

A mention for a Mensch and a Putz of a pollworker.

You always remember your very first time: Voting, I mean. The first time I voted was in 1972: I was 18 and I supported the Democrat who opposed an unpopular war. My candidate was George McGovern.

This year, Hunterdon Central HS student Soham Gupte is 18 and supports the Democratic candidate who opposes an unpopular war. His candidate is Barack Obama.

Oh, and Soham almost did not get to vote.

Soham turned 18 on January 11th, and downloaded his voter registration form from the Internet. He dutifully mailed it in on Saturday, January 12th to the state election folks in Trenton. With the deadline for registration being just three days later on January 15th, that would seem to be enough time for his registration to get there. Wrongo.

A few weeks later, Mr. Gupte received a postcard from those same state election folks telling him that he was registered, but wouldn’t be able to vote in the 2/5 primary ‘cause they didn’t receive the application until January 22nd. Undeterred, Soham contacted a member of the Hunterdon Board of Election, who reiterated what his postcard read. “Wait till November; you can vote then”, he was told. That was not good enough for Soham. He was involved in the Model UN, the mock trial cub, president of the Junior Statesman's Club, and participated in a summer political science program at Georgetown University. He was even more undeterred.

So, Soham contacted me in my capacity as an Election Day “Election Protection” lawyer volunteering with the ACLU, and asked me to go to court on his behalf. At about 6pm on February 5th, we were sitting in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Steven Rubin, in Hunterdon County. With very little coaching, Soham advocated for his right to vote in a very professional manner. Since there was no evidence presented by the Deputy Attorney General for the Hunterdon Board of Elections that the voter registration form was actually received too late, Judge Rubin ruled in Gupte's favor. Thirty minutes later, Soham cast his first vote for Senator Barack Obama.

Young people Soham’s age are in the demographic least likely to register to vote, and least likely to vote even if they are registered.

So, for being so highly motivated as to advocate for his right to vote, and standing up confidently in court, new voter and future lawyer Soham Gupte is this week’s Mensch of The Week. I only hope I don’t ever have to go up against him in court.

Governors tend to vote early in elections because their days are kind of full. And Governor Jon Corzine is no different. This passed primary day the governor went to vote at his usual polling place in Hoboken, only thing is ---- the voting machine refused to cooperate.

According to Michael Harper, the clerk for the elections board, a poll worker at the polling place in Hoboken/ Ward 2, District 3 did not push the right combination of buttons when activating the voting machine. That created a delay for voters [including Governor Corzine] of about 15 to 20 minutes.

And so, for pushing the wrong set of buttons and making NJ’s chief exec wait to vote, that unnamed poll worker is our Putz of the Week. Hint: When anyone goes to vote [including the governor] try not to make them wait.

18 comments:

Linda said...

Congrats to Soham! He's a great inspiration. And, don't sell yourself short, Joe. For defending Soham and others, you are a mensch yourself. And that Rosi! A hell of a mensch!!

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