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Clean Elections A Winner

Home News Tribune — Thursday, December 6, 2007

OPINION

It is too early to say if New Jersey's public elections experiment is an unqualified success, but a poll published last week was full of very good signs.

The poll was meant to compare the attitudes among voters in the three districts that had publicly funded legislative races with the attitudes of voters in the rest of the state. While some newspapers focused on the fact that a high percentage of people expressed little faith in their politicians, the fact is that more than half of those in the so-called Clean Elections districts said they were very or somewhat confident that public funding could reduce the influence of big donors in political decision-making.

And, because trust takes a while to develop, other more concrete signs were even more encouraging.

According to the poll, 70 percent of likely voters in the Clean Elections districts said they knew something or quite a lot about their respective legislative races, a figure nearly twice as high as the rest of New Jersey. Four in 10 voters in those districts – one of which was the 14th, which includes the Middlesex County municipalities of Cranbury, Jamesburg, Monroe, Plainsboro and South Brunswick – said their campaigns were issue-oriented, compared to 25 percent elsewhere.

Given how difficult it is to budge voter-participation rates and how long the electorate has rued personal, vindictive campaigns, these numbers are extraordinary.

They are certainly reason enough to expand the pilot in the coming years. And reason, too, to hope that at long last democracy – at least in New Jersey – may be finding a way around the corrosive influence of money on public policy.

Copyright 2007 Home News Tribune

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