Students First Candidates Rally to Stop Voter Suppression in New Brunswick

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Community advocates and residents plan to rally to stop voter suppression at the Board of Elections Meeting in Edison NJ. 

On Thursday April 1, the Middlesex County Board of Elections is expected to make the final decision on the proposal to eliminate 6 polling sites for the upcoming New Brunswick School Board election.

What: Stop Voter Suppression in New Brunswick Rally 
When: April 1, 2021 at 5pm
Where: Middlesex County College, College center, Lot 16, Cafeteria (2nd Floor), 2600 Woodbridge Avenue , Edison, NJ 08837

The “Students First” Candidates Linda Stork, Matt Rivera, and Jenifer Garcia plan to speak out at Thursday’s Board of Elections meeting. They will be joined by concerned residents and community advocates, some of whom plan to address the board directly and others who plan to protest outside the building.

Amidst news of voter suppression tactics and legislation passed in Georgia and pushed in other states, the pressure for the Board of Elections commissioners to restore the 6 polling sites in New Brunswick has been building up. 

The Students First candidates first got word of the proposal to close the polling locations on March 17th and spoke up at the New Brunswick City Council meeting where City Clerk Leslie Zeledon, who has stated she chooses the polling locations with guidance from the board, was present. Zeledon, when questioned on her decision to close nearly half of New Brunswick’s polling locations, cited precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

“If you’re trying to social distance, common sense would say don’t have more people going to less places.  The more places you have open, the more room people would have,” said Linda Stork, a retired teacher who is challenging the establishment in her second run for the New Brunswick Board of Education. “So what was the real reason that we couldn’t have all the polling places already open?”

The Board of Education was also questioned during the Board of Ed meeting on March 23 for their alleged involvement in the decision to close the polling locations. 

In the following days dozens of emails from residents in the area were sent to the commissioners asking them to reconsider. A letter by The Institute for Social Justice signed on by a growing list of NJ organizations and Rutgers student organizations will be presented to the commissioners as well. 

The residents are hopeful that the Board will side with the public as one of the four commissioners, Don Katz, came out against the decision in an email sent to Middlesex County Board of Elections Administrator Thomas Lynch and the other commissioners on the Board on March 22.  

“We have not approved reducing the number of polling places for the New Brunswick School Board Election and, to the best of my knowledge, none of the Governor’s executive orders specifically authorize or require such a reduction in the number of polling locations. Please see that this is corrected immediately,” Katz wrote.

The Students First candidates Lindy, Matt and Jenifer are pleased with commissioner Don Katz for doing the right thing and hope the other commissioners will join him at today’s meeting.


Students First Candidates Object to City’s Effort to Eliminate Six Voting Locations

Three candidates running to bring positive changes to New Brunswick’s school board are speaking out against an outrageous plan to eliminate six of the city’s voting locations for the upcoming election.

Candidates Linda Stork, Jenifer Garcia, and Matt Rivera mobilized after learning that New Brunswick’s City Clerk had agreed to cut nearly half of the voting locations normally in use.

The news came with just over one month until the April 20 election, and would affect thousands of residents. Unlike last year’s election, mail-in ballots will not be automatically sent to all voters.

If the plan is approved, some citizens may have to walk more than 1.5 miles to cast their ballots on Election Day, due to the closure of the popular location at the New Brunswick Housing Authority headquarters.

“The goal should be to facilitate voter participation, not minimize it,” said Rivera, an Air National Guard Staff Sgt. who also has experience working at the Middlesex County Clerk’s Office during the 2020 general election, when ballots were automatically mailed to every active voter.

However, under the Governor’s Executive Order 216, most voters will not receive a mail-in ballot this year.

The Students First team is concerned about the impact the elimination of voting locations will have on low-income communities and communities of color, and on overall turnout in the election.

“It just adds extra hassle to the process, which is what voter suppression does. It doesn’t make it impossible to vote, it just makes it more difficult to vote.” said Stork, a retired teacher who served New Brunswick for more than three decades.

The candidates also question why the locations that the city wants to eliminate are among the most convenient voting places.

“We do have to keep in mind that Roosevelt School, the Hungarian Heritage Center, the Senior Center, and the Labor Education Center, those are areas that are easy to access,” said Garcia, a lifelong resident who graduated from New Brunswick schools and works as a community organizer.

Other city residents joined the candidates in condemning the proposal at the March 17 New Brunswick City Council meeting, where no good reason was given for the drastic move.

City officials brushed off questions about the rationale, blaming the closures on the pandemic.

“If you’re trying to social distance, common sense would say don’t have more people going to less places.  The more places you have open, the more room people would have,” said Stork.  “So what was the real reason that we couldn’t have all the polling places already open?”

The proposal has not been formally approved by the Board of Elections, which is scheduled to meet on April 1.

The full list of polling places that would be eliminated is as follows:

  • NB Housing Authority office – 7 Van Dyke Avenue
  • Labor Education Center – 50 Labor Center Way
  • Roosevelt School – 83 Livingston Av.
  • Hungarian Heritage Center – 300 Somerset St.
  • Providence Square – 217 Somerset St.
  • NB Senior Center – 81 Huntington St.

Of all fourteen voting locations normally open, the list of closures includes the fourth most popular polling place: the New Brunswick Senior Center.

The move will also leave only one location, a downtown church, as the sole site in the entire Fifth Ward.  The Second and Sixth Wards will also be cut down to just one location each.

In many cases, communities of color and low-income residents are more likely to be impacted by the closures due to the high costs of transportation and the ugly history of segregation and discrimination in housing.

The Students First team calls on the City Clerk and Board of Elections to reconsider and restore all of New Brunswick’s voting locations, and requests that their opponents join them in this call.


“Students First” Team Declares Candidacy For New Brunswick School Board

Three community leaders declared their candidacy for the New Brunswick School Board, challenging the political establishment and promising to put the students of the city first.

After more than 30 years as a bilingual kindergarten teacher, Linda “Lindy” Stork is ready to put her extensive knowledge and experience with community care and education into serving the students of her city as a Board of Education member.

“Being a teacher in New Brunswick and seeing my own kids go through our public school system, I got to understand just how much we needed someone looking out for our student’s best interests on the Board of Ed,” said Stork.  “I’ve been advocating for New Brunswick students for years and I am willing and ready to fight for them, every step of the way.”

At just 23 years old Jennifer Garcia is already a seasoned community organizer at a local worker center. She plans to expand on her work and commitment to her community by serving on the school board, where she can make decisions that directly impact students of her city. 

“As a first generation college Student, I experienced first hand the many systemic roadblocks people of my background face in this struggle to overcome our material condition,” said Garcia.  “Having come out on the other side, l can now use this experience and knowledge to ensure that we prioritize closing that gap for kids that come after me.”

A graduate of Rutgers University, like his running mates, Matthew Rivera has settled in New Brunswick and invested heavily in his community, only choosing employment where he could serve. 

“When I came to New Brunswick in 2014, I was moved by the amount of culture and community in this City. But I was also saddened to see the level of inequality and opportunity for the residents. As a member of the Board of Education, I will use my diverse skills set and experience to help shape a better future for the students of New Brunswick.”

The “Students First” Team is running to deliver tangible changes in the current quality of education. Among their top priorities are improving accountability, ensuring adequate staffing in all schools, updating the district’s aging facilities to modern standards, and bringing much-needed transparency with the public

The candidates say they were motivated to run by the highly publicized injustice of the school board’s rushed sale of the Lincoln Annex School, displacing 750 students against the wishes of the parents, students, neighborhood residents, and advocates for public education.

The incumbent board members ignored the massive community opposition to the sale and the inadequate plan to send the displaced students to a warehouse building in a dangerous area far from their neighborhood for several years.  Lindy, Matt, and Jenifer plan to challenge this corruption and racial injustice while centering the needs of our students and putting them first.