Voting is a vital responsibility for citizens of a democracy like ours — and it took years of struggle to win the right to vote for all Americans, regardless of race or gender. So why do so few of us use our vote? In New Jersey, fewer than 70% of us vote during a presidential election. Only half of us vote in midterm elections — and the voter participation rate in some counties is lower still.

What keeps us away from the ballot box? This event, a part of NJPAC’s PSEG True Diversity Film Series, will look at this trend through Why Don’t We Vote?, a PBS special that investigated what drives voters to the polls — and what turns them away.

This season, the films NJPAC will present through the PSEG True Diversity Film Series will focus on social and racial justice, in response to the uprisings against systemic racism that have spread around the globe in 2020. To continue these presentations safely during the pandemic, we have redesigned this series to work like a book club: We’ll all watch the selected films at our homes, then come together on a video conference to discuss the film with panelists who can offer context and insight.

We encourage everyone to view this PBS special, Why Don’t We Vote? and then join us for a virtual panel discussion at 7PM on October 5, moderated by attorney Joyce Wilson Harley, the former mayor of South Orange and the creator of Operation Big Vote, which harnesses the power of Black women’s organizations to elect Black women to public office nationwide.

You can register for the panel discussion here.

Our panel for this event will include guests who can discuss the actual responsibilities of the officials we vote for, from Freeholder to Senator, and how we as citizens can hold them accountable. They’ll also take a deep dive into voter apathy and discuss the practical steps involved in registering to vote and voting safely during the pandemic.

Our panelists:

  • Toni Hendrix, the principal partner of the Hendrix Group, was the first Chief Customer Officer of NJPAC, where she was responsible for creating the institution’s customer loyalty strategies. A resident of Somerset, she serves as the Community Outreach/Civic Engagement Chairperson for the New Brunswick Area Branch of the NAACP, where she works on public voter registration campaigns and voting rights education seminars.
  • Lynda Lloyd served as the President of the Newark Branch NAACP Youth Council while she was still in high school, and in2008 was elected to a Democratic Essex County Committee seat in the South Ward of Newark. Lynda developed a successful city-wide civic engagement program called the Newark Voter Empowerment Tour (NVET), which registered thousands of new voters.
  • Ron Rice Jr., the senior director for government relations with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in Washington, DC, has more than 25 years of public policy experience in the fields of education, urban development and community empowerment. In 2006, Ron was elected to the Newark Municipal Council, where he sponsored legislation that reformed ethics laws, rehabilitated abandoned properties, provided job opportunities for rehabilitated felons and created the city’s Environmental, African and LGBT Commissions.
  • Roberto Frugone is president of The Frugone Group, a neighborhood development and government relations consulting firm, which trains local leaders on strategies to influence policy. Frugone served as a media specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau, providing 2020 Census communications and messaging support to organizations and local elected leaders throughout the Northeast and Puerto Rico, and organized extensive Latino outreach and community mobilization efforts for two U.S. Senators and a Presidential campaign.