There is an 18-year-old high school senior in Hunterdon who got a surprise today when he went to vote for himself, in his first election as a candidate. Soham Gupte, who is headed to George Washington University soon to study politics, found himself listed on the ballot as the female candidate for County Committee. Soham is a male.
In the crimson heart of what used to be solid-red Hunterdon County, is Readington Township, a particularly hard nut to crack if you’re an active Democrat. And that’s what Soham intends to be; among his accomplishments is as co-founder of the 134-member Hunterdon High School Students for Obama facebook group. He goes to Hunterdon Central HS in Flemington.
The male/female glitch – apparently originating in the county clerk’s office – is interesting enough. But what I find remarkable is that in a county where County Committee seats often go begging there are two males competing for that spot. That’s a big deal in a county like Hunterdon.
In the last hour, the young candidate called me, I called the Board of Elections, who called the County Clerk, and they consulted with lawyers from the Attorney General’s office. And I called NJSDC Exec Cirector Rob Angelo, so he’d be in the loop. And I learned something I didn’t know – according to the Attorney General’s office, the laws reserving one county committee slot per voting district for a female and one for a male, were changed some years ago. Nobody’s quite sure how Soham’s situation will be resolved yet. Lawyers are talking to lawyers, and certain issues like whether the county party bylaws would have to also be updated, are answers I just don’t have yet.
Oddly enough, this is Soham’s first election as a candidate, but it’s not the first time he voted. He turned 18 a few days before the cutoff to register before Super Tuesday, and sent his application in before the deadline. But when he got a letter saying he was registered to vote but not in time for the Presidential Primary, I took him to court along with a lawyer donating his time for election protection work for ACLU-NJ. Hunterdon Superior Court Judge Steve Rubin determined Soham was not at fault and ruled he could vote. Soham’s a bit of a veteran.
Two things seem remarkable here:
1. An 18-year-old is so determined to exercise his civic responsibility that he goes to court to safeguard his right to vote, and places his name on the ballot the first time he can. Hats off to Soham Gupte for that.
2. That things are changing so much, even in Hunterdon County, even in Readington, that County Committee slots are competed for. Hats off to everyone who makes sure that 50-State Strategy is 21-County Strategy in NJ, for that one.