On Wednesday evening, the Mercer County Board of Elections held the first of three public meetings regarding the new election district map for the consolidated Princeton. Open to the public, the meeting was led by the Chairman of the Board Dominic Magnolo.
Newly hired engineer consultant, Kevin Zelinsky, representing Remington & Vernick Engineers, presented the upcoming steps for redistricting. Proposed redistricting includes adjusting election district lines to make the voting process less confusing for the undergraduate population of the University.
The Board of Elections is currently under a tight time frame in terms of drawing up election maps, as it has only until Dec. 23 to redraw election districts according to New Jersey state law. The Princeton redistricting case is unique, as Magnolo noted that although the Board has experience redistricting in other towns, this is the first time the Board is dealing with redistricting for a newly consolidated town. Accordingly, Princeton residents, the University and the Princeton Consolidation Commission, chaired by Anton Lahnston, are questioning the process.
One such concern is the question of how redistricting will affect Princeton University students. “There is a very high priority to look at the effect of the election boundary district lines running through the Princeton University campus,” stated Lahnston. Echoing Lahnston was Unite Princeton co-chair and Borough Municipal Democratic Party Chair Peter Wolanin ’94 who spoke with many undergraduate students during the consolidation campaign with regards to the facility of voting on campus, amongst other issues. “I would urge the Board to keep the entirety of the undergraduate population in one district,” Wolanin said.
Currently the University campus falls under five separate districts, three of which were in the Borough and two of which were in the Township. When questioned about the future status of election districts for the University, Magnolo stated that by next Wednesday, the Board will have drawn up preliminary maps for the public. However when asked to approximate how many districts the University will encompass, engineer Zelinsky stated that “for the entire campus, there will likely to be two or three districts, but the proposal for now is that the University undergraduate housing will be encompassed into one single district.”
If this proposal is realized, then all of the Princeton undergraduate population would be able to vote in one location. This location, while still pending, is in discussion to be at the Icahn Laboratory, or potentially Frist Campus Center. Director of Community Relations Karen Woodbridge noted that the University is also in support of the proposal of one district for University undergraduate housing. Bringing up the fact that many undergraduate students move every year, making things very confusing in terms of polling locations, Woodbridge suggested that creating election districts so as to make voting more convenient for students would most likely increase the amount of student participation in elections.
The next public meeting held by the Mercer County Board of Elections will be on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m. with the purpose of presenting election map drafts to the public and hearing comments and feedback based on the new potential map. Although, new districts will be determined by this meeting, Magnolo noted that the Board will take into serious consideration the feedback of Princeton residents, and that districts are subject to adjustment as this feedback from next week’s meeting has the potential to impact the districting process.