As published in the Hoboken Reporter, May 25, 2003
Citizens of Hoboken:
We, the candidates of the Hoboken Citizens Organization (HCO), want to thank those who voted for us on May 13th.
We also 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.
If the Mayor and Council are not prepared to do this, the HCO can provide an interim solution that can be implemented immediately, and hopefully our suggestion can be considered for the next city-wide election. We invite each run-off candidate to participate in a neutral forum by emailing his/her candidate statement of up to 1500 words to firstname.lastname@example.org. Each and every candidate statement will be posted unedited and without commentary on the HCO website: www.HobokenCitizens.Org. We encourage candidates to include contact information and website links so that the citizens of Hoboken can access additional information on their candidacy.
We also encourage the public to email or phone us (at 201-217-3456) with your ideas and thoughts on this paradigm.
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.
Alice C. Misiewicz
Hoboken Citizens Organization