How to Level the Playing Field

Statement to the Hoboken City Council, May 21, 2003
by Daniel Tumpson
Hoboken Citizens Organization

City Council Members:

Along with fellow Hoboken Citizens Organization candidates Cheryl Fallick and Alice Misiewicz, I want to suggest a new election paradigm which we believe will help voters to make informed decisions in the upcoming run-offs and in all future elections.

In our current election paradigm, candidate(s) who spend the most money on campaign advertising and branding often stand the best chance of winning.  Name recognition goes a long way toward winning elections.  Candidates with limited resources cannot adequately compete with the advertising blitz of well-funded candidates.

For example, we could not afford the several thousand dollars cost to send out even one bulk mailing to all of our potential constituents.  We simply could not afford to get our message to every voter.  Since most voters lacked even a minimal idea of who we are, what we’ve done, or what we propose to do, few voters knew what their choices really were.

Clearly the playing field was not equal – some candidates had money to dominate the information flow, and some, like us, had little or no such forum for expression.  In this way, elections can be bought.

Our experience suggests a possible solution to this problem:  why not include with the sample ballot (that is mailed to each and every voter) a “candidate's statement” for each and every candidate?  Each candidate would prepare a statement of approximately 1000 words for this mailing stating their positions on the issues and providing contact and website information.

This would provide the voter with the opportunity to compare the candidates and make a fair and informed choice.

Actually, including information with a sample ballot is not a new idea; an interpretive statement is routinely included for each referendum question on the ballot.  But including candidate information is even more important, since elected representatives make most of our decisions for us.  It is only fair to both voters and candidates that candidate information be provided with the sample ballot.

We propose that the Mayor and Council implement this “equal playing field” paradigm in the upcoming runoff election.  The one city-wide mailing of the candidates’ statements could be prepared and distributed quickly and at low cost to all voters.

This new and simple procedure can insure the minimum standards for a fair election:  an equal opportunity for all candidates to communicate with all voters.  This could be a model for fair elections throughout the United States.

The following is a sample resolution for authorizing the distribution of the candidates’ statements to the voters:

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Be it resolved that the Information Officer (or whoever is appropriate) immediately do the following:

(1.)  obtain from each candidate in the upcoming City Council runoff election a “candidates statement” of up to 1000 words in computer readable text format which includes whatever information about their candidacy they want to be communicated to the voters, such as their positions on the issues,  biographical information, and website and/or other contact information;

(2.) create a document containing all of these candidates’ statements in plain text format, unedited and without commentary;

(3.) Distribute this “candidates’ statements” document to each and every registered voter by mail as soon as possible after the sample ballot is so distributed;

(4.) Post this “candidates’ statements” document on the official City of Hoboken website and bulletin board in City Hall where it may be viewed through election day, June 10, 2003.

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Thank you for your consideration, and please act immediately on this so that the voters will have the maximum time to consider the distributed information and make an informed choice on election day.