By Angeline Boyer, Assistant Director of Media Relations, Saint Peter’s University

Left: New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way; Right: Peter the Peacock and a Saint Peter's student (photo courtesy of Saint Peter's University)

Left: New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way; Right: Peter the Peacock and a Saint Peter’s student (photo courtesy of Saint Peter’s University)

“For a better tomorrow…for my child’s future…to change the world…for justice for all…for my future…
to be involved…to use my voice for positive change…because all votes really do matter.”

These are just a few of the reasons why participants in this year’s New Jersey Ballot Bowl Kick-Off Celebration plan to vote. Held on September 22 in celebration of National Voter Registration Day, the Ballot Bowl was hosted virtually by the Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, NJ.

The New Jersey Ballot Bowl is an annual statewide non-partisan voter registration competition that is overseen by the New Jersey Department of State and led by and for students. This year, teams from twenty-six New Jersey colleges and universities entered into competition against one another to recruit the most students from each campus to register and pledge to vote in the November 2020 election. The competition began at the kick-off celebration and continued through the voter registration deadline of October 13.

The event featured a keynote address from New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way, as well as commentary from New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and a special guest appearance by Nate Solder, an offensive tackle from the New York Giants. Participants included students, faculty, staff, administrators and mascots from colleges and universities throughout New Jersey.

In a message to students, Governor Murphy said, “Helping others to register to vote is an act of service to your community and our democracy. For the past three years, Ballot Bowl teams across New Jersey have helped us to register literally thousands of voters, most of them young people like yourselves. By joining us this year, you and your classmates can play a crucial part in expanding our electorate and helping more citizens make their voices heard.”

The coronavirus pandemic changed the way that the Ballot Bowl teams would operate compared to previous years. Secretary of State Way explained that thanks to online voter registration and mail-in ballots, registering and voting has been easier to do than ever before. She also shared some inspiration for students to get registered and vote. “I am not just your Secretary of State: I am a mom of four daughters, including two young voters,” explained Way. “I firmly believe in the power of young voices and young voters because I see and hear you each and every day. Thank you for strengthening my faith and hope in your generation and our shared future.”

The Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership at Saint Peter’s was honored to be selected as the host for this important event that serves to mobilize young voters. “I would like to congratulate all of the students at all of the universities involved, because the work that they do in registering people to vote is so important,” said Ginger Gold Schnitzer, J.D., Executive Director of the Guarini Institute. “Voter registration is a critical first step in participating and we know that when more people participate, it makes our democracy stronger.”

The event was a special occasion not only because it was held on National Voter Registration Day, but because it marked the 55th anniversary of a visit to Saint Peter’s by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who received an honorary degree from the University in 1965.

“During his visit, Dr. King stood before students and educators, inspiring them to unleash their ideas, think for themselves and, like him, pursue their dreams,” said Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D., President of Saint Peter’s University. “In his wake, he left an unwavering legacy and a presence that can still be felt on campus. For the past 55 years, Saint Peter’s has been dedicated to living out the mission of Dr. King, who fought courageously for the rights of many. Hosting the Ballot Bowl is one way we can do so.”

Dr. Cornacchia also left participants with some words of inspiration to get them started on their mission to register and pledge to vote. “I wish all of the schools the best of luck, and may the best school win,” said Dr. Cornacchia. “However, in my mind, when we can get everyone to participate in our democracy, we all come out as winners.”

The winner of the Ballot Bowl will be announced officially in late October. The complete kick-off celebration can be viewed on the Facebook page of the Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership at Saint Peter’s University.