David Harris:

Holly Gauthier:

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South Orange/Maplewood NJ -- SOMA Action would like to commend the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders on its decision on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 to replace our county’s voting machines with new hand-marked paper ballots and district-based optical scanners.

The SOMA Action Voter Rights Committee, led by its co-chairs Holly Gauthier and David Harris, has been advocating for the County to replace the old, unreliable and costly voting machines with new, secure, cost-effective hand-marked paper ballots with optical scanners for over one and a half years. Although their advocacy focused on the Essex County Freeholders, members of the Voter Rights Committee were also able to meet with election officials and discuss their concerns and opinions at length. The combination of the Voter Rights Committee’s activism and our elected and appointed officials’ willingness to listen and hear its citizens has resulted in Essex County residents having a secure voting system recommended by nationally renowned experts. With the decision to purchase these new machines, Essex County is now a leader in this regard. 

As SOMA Action Voter Rights Committee co-Chair David Harris said after Tuesday night’s vote, “Our success demonstrates that democracy works.” Holly Gauthier, committee co-chair, added, “Given how so many of our institutions are under attack, the fact that Essex County is taking a lead in providing voting machines with the most secure system that also provides for significant voter engagement is a gift to our democracy.”

SOMA Action would like to thank The Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Freeholder President Brendan Gill, and the Essex County election officials for making democracy stronger in our county. In addition, we are grateful to Professors Andrew Appel and Penny Venetis for all of the information and support, and Blue Wave NJ, New Jersey Appleseed, and all the other activists and organizations who have aided and encouraged us along the way. We look forward to working with Essex County elected officials to educate the public about the use and importance of these new machines in the near future. 


ABOUT SOMA Action. SOMA Action is an active and growing group of 1800+ diverse members  from South Orange, Maplewood and neighboring communities dedicated to driving progressive change. We are committed to a full range of progressive causes, including social and environmental justice, a healthy nation and planet, and a transparent and accountable government. SOMA Action stands in solidarity with other groups working toward these goals.