Organs for transplant: Improving the supply by shifting the policy (from opting in to opting out)

By Linda Stamato

Most people support organ donation and organ transplants but, as it turns out, they don’t donate. Given the former, how do we encourage the latter? How does (or can) society encourage positive behavior? Should government attempt to affect certain decision-making behaviors? Whether we’re talking about limiting climate change, for example, or promoting healthy living, or donating organs, one crucial question is whether (and, if yes, when) to use the techniques and tools of science, particularly cognitive science, to try to steer people toward better choices.

In “Why Isn’t the Brain Green?” (The New York Times Magazine) Jon Gertner explores this question. He is struck by the fact that Americans fail to place concerns about climate change, for example, high on the nation’s list of critical priorities and so individuals fail to make decisions and take actions that reflect that concern. Accordingly, policy experts are turning to the work of cognitive scientists, especially those who work in the area of decision science, to discern ways to encourage behavior changes to protect the environment and limit negative climate change.

An image from an organ donation website

This same research is remarkably useful in consumer psychology and may offer a critical insight into how to increase the availability of organs for transplant. Richard Thaler, a pioneer in the field, and author, with Cass Sunstein, of Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (Yale University Press, 2008), conducted research on consumer savings patterns that has direct relevance. Thaler found that many more people saved money in a 401(K) retirement plan if they did not have to take active steps to join the plan. In one study, only 45 percent of a company’s new employees participated in the 401(K) plan when doing so required them to take some kind of action, like filling out a form. However, 86 percent participated when doing so was the default option.

And, Max Bazerman, along with colleagues at the Harvard Business School, investigated how people make unwise tradeoffs. One finding is particularly relevant. It’s this: Most people agree that organ donation makes sense, but, as noted above, they don’t donate. Most people accept the default position, the status quo. It is not that people are deciding not to donate; rather, they are not thinking about it. In countries other than the United States, the default is that unless you specify that you do not want to donate your organs, you become a viable donor at death. In the U.S., unless you actively decide to donate, you are not likely to be a donor. Thus, the default approach that society imposes dramatically affects donor rates. As a result of the U.S system, according to Bazerman, 6,000 people die each year who might not have given a change in the default.

Organs in the body that can be donated and transplanted

There really is a difference in how a choice is presented.

In “Expand pool of blood donors” the The Star Ledger editorial on 15th of February, 2009, observed:

“When it comes to our blood, we’re selfish. Only 2.5 percent of eligible New Jerseyans donate blood, compared to the national average of 5 percent.
But, oh, when we need blood, when our life hangs in the balance, we want it.”

The same point can be made about all organ and tissue donations. The “Chain of Life” three-part multimedia series by The Star Ledger in June, makes the case urgently and passionately. As does a column that appeared in February, 2009, which featured the lives of the five recipients of the organs of a young man, Dennis Maloosseril, who was killed by a gunman inside a church in Clifton. His parents donated his heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and pancreas to donors. These stories, compelling as they are, help to heighten awareness of the need for organs for transplant. As do efforts, say, by employers to promote organ donation by their employees, such as Rutgers University, my employer, does. And, too, changes in the law such as the New Jersey Hero Act that was signed into law in October of 2008 that requires residents of New Jersey who are applying for a driver’s license to consider becoming organ donors. This consideration certainly does make people think.

But, as important as new law and education efforts are, organ donations will not keep pace with the need for them. (The New Jersey Organ and Tissue Sharing Network reports an increase in organ donations but, at the same time, thousands of state residents await organs to save their lives.

We have to think about this problem differently.

We could provide incentives such as life-long Medicare coverage or even tax credits or vouchers. Through greater educational efforts, too, we could hope for a surge in altruism. Fundamentally, though, while these efforts might increase the number of organ donations, the problem will remain unsolved because the need is so great.

In “Enlarging the Societal Pie through Wise Legislation: A Psychological Perspective,” Max Bazerman, this time with fellow authors Jonathan Baron and Katherine Shonk, looked into the psychology of decision-making and the impact on policy. They asked this question, “Why are organ-donor programs constrained to the point where thousands of Americans die needlessly each year?” They posed the following hypothetical:

a. If you die in an auto accident, your heart will be used to save another person’s life. In addition, if you are ever in need of a heart transplant, there will be a 90 percent chance that you will get the heart.

b. If you die in an auto accident, you will be buried with your heart in your body. In addition, if you are ever in need of a heart transplant, there will be a 45 percent chance that you will get the heart.

They asked the study participants which of these options they’d prefer. Most people choose “a” as the benefit of the trade-off is quite clear. Yet government policy, yielding to what psychologists term “omissions bias”– which is the “irrational preference for harms of omission over harms of action”–follows an organ donation program that favors “b.”

This is a striking result that clearly supports a change in policy: We need to switch to a ‘default’ system that functions as follows: Unless you specify that you do not want to donate your organs, you become a viable donor at death. By this simple shift in policy, organ donations would rise substantially.
A free collection of articles on transplants can be found at this website.


Just What Does $340,000 Buy You These Days?

By Richard A. Lee

By raising more than $340,000 for his independent campaign for governor, Chris Daggett has qualified for public matching funds, as well as the right to participate in two official debates this fall.

Just what else will result from having met the $340,000 threshold is not so clear.

Does it give Daggett a realistic opportunity to compete with the two major party candidates? Will his candidacy take votes away from Republican candidate Chris Christie? Can it somehow hurt Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine’s chances for re-election? Or will it simply be a wash with relatively equal numbers of Democratic and Republican voters opting for an independent candidate?

We won’t know the answers to these questions until after Election Day in November, but in the interim, there will be plenty of speculation. For my part, I decided to take a look at three research studies on independent and third-party candidates and see how the findings may – or may not – apply to this year’s race for governor in New Jersey.

There is a progression in the three studies. The first takes a broad look at challenges to our two-party system; the second focuses on minor party candidates in gubernatorial elections, and the third examines the successful campaign of a third-party candidate for governor – Jesse Ventura, who was elected governor of Minnesota in 1998. Here is what I found:

Challenges to the American Two-Party System: Evidence from the 1968, 1980, 1992, and 1996 Presidential Elections by Paul R. Abramson, John H. Aldrich, Philip Paolino and David W Rohde (2000)

In this study, the authors found that independent candidates benefit when voters’ connections with the major political parties are weakened. Moreover, dissatisfaction with the major party candidates – as opposed to their parties – played a greater role in voters’ support for independent candidates. According to the study: “The people supporting an independent candidate are not those harboring a long-developed disaffection from the major parties, but rather are those who can be moved to express anti-party views because, and probably only because, they are disaffected from the parties’ candidates in a particular election.”

In New Jersey’s race for governor, both major party candidates have been blaming the opposing party for today’s dire economic conditions. At the same time, there have been many direct attacks upon both Corzine and Christie. Based on this study’s findings, independent candidates such as Daggett would benefit more if the major party candidates target each other, rather than their political parties.

Picking Their Spots: Minor Party Candidates in Gubernatorial Elections by Steve B. Lem and Conor M. Dowling (2006)

Lem and Dowling examined gubernatorial elections in all states between 1982 and 2000. Their research was designed to determine why minor party candidates run for office when the chances of winning are slim. The authors also suggested that independents can benefit from “ideological gaps” left by the major party candidates. Such gaps create opportunities “to offer something different than the Democrats and Republicans,” they wrote.

Providing voters an alternative to the major party candidates has been a big part of Daggett’s message. By exploiting gaps in the Corzine and Christie campaigns, he and the other non-major candidates in the race could increase their appeal to New Jersey voters if this year’s election is consistent with Lem and Dowling’s findings.

The Origins and Impact of Votes for Third-Party Candidates: A Case Study of the 1998 Minnesota Gubernatorial Election by Dean Lacy and Quin Monson (2002)

Of the three studies, this is the most interesting in that it explores the circumstances surrounding an independent gubernatorial candidate who won an election. However, many of the factors accounting for Jesse Ventura’s 1998 victory in Minnesota were unique to that campaign.

While Ventura entered the race with high-name recognition due to his career as a professional wrestler, he also benefited from a well-timed newspaper report, a rare state election law, creative use of public funds, the absence of an incumbent on the ticket, and a tight campaign between the two major party candidates, both of whom had emerged from hotly contested and potentially divisive primary elections.

According to Lacy and Monson, as late as mid-October, polls were showing Ventura with just about 10 percent of the vote. But his numbers rose steadily in the latter part of October – so much in fact that on the Sunday before Election Day, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that he had a realistic chance of winning the election. The report had a profound and positive impact for Ventura.

“Even though he never officially led in the pre-election polls, the signal communicated to voters through the press was that Ventura was in a position possibly to win,” the authors explained. “In the close three-way race this significantly reduced the incentives to vote strategically.  Third party candidates face a perpetual problem of losing their supporters to strategic voting: third party voters often defect to their second most preferred candidate in order to avoid electing their least preferred candidate. With his momentum in the polls and eventual victory, Ventura overcame the usual trend.”

The timing of the newspaper report was extremely beneficial for Ventura because Minnesota is one of the few states that allow citizens to register to vote on Election Day, making it possible for those who decided to support him – even at that late stage of the campaign – to cast ballots. Ventura’s rising poll numbers also made it likely he would qualify for public funds – but not until after Election Day. So he took out a loan, used it for late advertising and paid it back after the election.

The scenario in New Jersey this fall will be much different, but one element of Lacy and Monson’s findings may have implications in the Garden State, where Democrats hope to nationalize the election and benefit from President Obama’s popularity, while Republicans contend that state issues will determine the outcome. The study found that voter attitudes on the condition of the nation had no effect on Ventura’s support. Conversely, the condition of the state played a more significant role.

“Ventura’s electoral success was due to dissatisfaction with Minnesota government rather than a reaction to national conditions,” Lacy and Monson wrote. “People who believe Minnesota is on the right track are more likely to vote for the major-party candidates than for Ventura.”

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These research studies provide a good starting point for discussion of New Jersey’s race for governor. At the end of the day, however, every election is unique with its own set of candidates and circumstances. How Chris Daggett and the other candidates fare in New Jersey in 2009 will be determined by the distinctive factors in place in our state this year.

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Political Allies Don’t Always Sing in Tune

By Richard A. Lee

In a symphony orchestra, each musician has a specific role, but as a group they work in unison toward a common goal – to make beautiful music. If just one member of the orchestra decides to do things differently, the results can be disastrous.

The dynamics of symphony orchestras come to mind because of two recent events in which political allies appear to be singing from different song sheets.

The first of these took place on Thursday at a Congressional hearing on deferred prosecution agreements. For New Jersey Democrats, the session conducted by the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law provided an opportunity to score political points because the star witness was GOP gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie and the agenda included questions regarding deferred prosecution agreements that took place while he was the state’s U.S. Attorney.

Not surprisingly, Republicans charged that the hearing was politically motivated (Christie labeled the session a political circus after he finished his testimony). Meanwhile, Democrats argued that the hearing was needed to determine whether deferred prosecution agreements require additional oversight, as proposed in legislation co-authored by two Democratic New Jersey congressmen. That’s not a bad argument – unless someone from your own party starts singing from a different song sheet.

And that’s more or less what happened when a member of the Obama Administration testified that deferred prosecution agreements – in their current form — have been an effective part of the federal government’s efforts to combat corporate fraud. He also warned that the proposed legislation would weaken those efforts. “The bill would impede the government’s enforcement efforts against corporate and financial frauds by limiting our discretion in appropriately prosecuting cases,” Gary Grindler, a deputy assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice, told the committee.

Grindler is a seasoned attorney who supervises the Justice Department’s enforcement of anti-fraud laws, so his comments should not be taken lightly.  But in the context of New Jersey’s gubernatorial election, his testimony was ill-timed for Democrats, and Christie seized the opportunity quickly. “I agree with the Obama Administration, who think that what we did was completely appropriate,” he told politickernj after the hearing. “You heard the official from the Obama Justice Department say that they wouldn’t change a thing about what we did.”

Could the situation have been avoided?  In this case, if the White House knew that Grindler’s testimony was going to undercut an effort to tarnish Christie’s reputation, the administration could have warned New Jersey Democrats that the hearing might not be such a good idea and urged that they cancel or postpone the session. Or perhaps the White House could have had Grindler take a little more time to review the proposed legislation, so that he could tell the committee the Justice Department was still studying the proposal, instead of trashing it.

Closer to home, there was another disconnect – this one involving the election of a lieutenant governor for the first time in New Jersey history. According to the state Constitution, gubernatorial candidates have 30 days from the date they are nominated to select a lieutenant governor running mate. This generally was interpreted – by the candidates, the media and political experts – as 30 days from New Jersey’s June 2 primary election, which would have placed the deadline at July 2.  But it turns out that candidates do not officially become nominees until the primary election results are certified by the Secretary of State, and Nina Mitchell Wells, who serves as Secretary of State in Governor Corzine’s cabinet, did not certify the results until June 26, giving candidates until July 27 to select their running mates.

In the grand scheme of things, the extra 25 days may matter little in November, but it is puzzling that Wells did not clarify the deadline sooner.  As far back as April, news reports were indicating that the deadline was July 2, and it appears that both major candidates were operating under the same timetable.  Why not set the record straight sooner?

What these two episodes illustrate is just how difficult it is for a chief executive to keep tabs on every agency and every employee in his or her administration – something that President Obama discovered quickly when a passenger jet and an F-16 fighter plane were authorized — apparently without his knowledge — to fly over New York City for an unannounced photo op that rekindled fears of the 9/11 attacks.

Political campaigns face similar challenges. They must keep large numbers of people on message when the stakes are high, time is short, and egos are gigantic. No campaign is perfect. For all of its historic accomplishments, the Obama campaign still made its share of mistakes.

Successful campaigns manage to move past their missteps so they become mere blips on the radar screen. For unsuccessful campaigns, missteps can become emblematic of flawed and failed efforts — as in images of Michael Dukakis at the controls of a tank in his 1988 bid for the presidency. Here in New Jersey, it is unlikely that any of this year’s candidates for governor will run perfect campaigns immune from mistakes. But come November, how they handled those missteps could be what makes the difference between winning and losing.

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For NJ: Nothing Finer When Compared to Carolina

By Richard A. Lee

First it was New York, where bickering lawmakers have been unable to decide who is in charge of the State Senate. Now it’s South Carolina doing its part to make New Jersey look good in comparison to the other 49 states.

For this we can thank South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford whose whereabouts were a mystery for a few days. According to news reports:

  • Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer, who is second in command, did not know where Sanford was, and she was not put in charge of the state during his absence.
  • The governor’s wife Jenny and their four children did not hear from him for several days, even on Father’s Day.
  • Calls placed to Sanford’s cell phone went straight to voice mail, and he did not respond to text messages.
  • The State Law Enforcement Division, which provides security for the governor, was unable to reach Sanford.
  • Several days after the governor disappeared from public view, his spokesperson, Joel Sawyer, said he had not spoken with Sanford nor was he aware of any other staff member who had. Sawyer did note that the governor told his staff where he was going planned to check in, but said little else about his whereabouts.

The mystery surrounding the governor came to an end on Wednesday when he returned to work and announced that he had been in Argentina and had been having an affair with a woman from the South American country. Earlier in the week, Sanford’s staff had told reporters that he was been hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

We’ve had our share of well-known missing persons in New Jersey – from former State Senator and Assemblyman David Friedland who faked his death and vanished in 1985 after his conviction on racketeering charges, to Atlantic City Mayor Bob Levy who was missing for nearly two weeks in 2007 in the aftermath of allegations about false claims in his military records.

But to the best of my knowledge, New Jersey has never had a governor go AWOL – not that some haven’t tried to escape the public spotlight from time to time.

Governor Whitman apparently was quite good at the practice, according to a lengthy Star-Ledger profile published during her 1997 re-election campaign. The story recounts tales of the governor climbing out of a window in her office, donning a wig and hat to sneak past State Troopers, and even dropping down into the moat and climbing over a stone wall to escape to a local pub during a national governors’ conference.

Living under a microscope cannot be fun, so it is no wonder that public figures relish their rare opportunities to enjoy the type of privacy that is afforded to the general public. President Obama recently said that’s one of the reasons he takes pleasure in playing golf. For six hours, he gets to feel normal, the president told Harry Smith on CBS’ Early Show. “There are a whole bunch of Secret Service guys, but they’re sort of in the woods,” he said. “It feels as if you you’re out of the container, and actually – I realize now – as close as you’re going to get to being outside of this place.”

Obama’s point is well taken. Everyone, including presidents, needs a break every now and then.  And every public figure also has a personal life and the issues that come with it. But presidents, governors, mayors and other elected officials also have obligations to the people they serve – and that means taking proper steps and following proper procedures. We shouldn’t stand for anything less in New Jersey – and neither should the citizens of South Carolina or any other state in the union.

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NJSTARS and NJSTARS II – Keeping the Best and Brightest in New Jersey

By E. Michael Angulo, Esq.

New Jersey has a strong commitment to educational excellence.  Few states can compare with New Jersey in terms of the amount of resources devoted to high quality public education.  A highly educated populace is essential if New Jersey is going to sustain a robust workforce ready to compete in the global economy.

To this end, Governor Jon S. Corzine and the Legislature have supported the NJSTARS and NJSTARS II program to ensure that our best and brightest students, regardless of economic circumstances, are able to pursue their higher education in New Jersey.

First established in June 2004, the NJSTARS program covers tuition and approved fees for attendance at a New Jersey community college for students graduating in the top 15 percent of their high school class.   NJSTARS recognizes the importance of acquiring an education beyond the high school level, the need to produce and retain a well-trained and educated workforce, and the ability of the State’s community colleges to strengthen the State’s economy.  Since 2004, nearly $35 million has been awarded under the program.

In an effort to encourage and assist NJSTARS students to obtain their four-year degree in State, in 2006, the NJSTARS II program was created.  The NJSTARS II program allows NJSTARS students graduating with at least a 3.25 grade point average (GPA) from their community college to continue their education at a four-year public college in New Jersey.  To date, over $8.7 million in NJSTARS II scholarships have been awarded.  Under NJSTARS II, awards are based on tuition; however, for students receiving a Tuition Aid Grant, the award is based on tuition and approved fees.  Award amounts are also based on the student’s GPA. Students with a GPA between 3.25 and 3.50 can receive up to $6,000 per year and those who have GPAs greater than a 3.5 can receive up to $7,000 per year.

To address the unprecedented growth of the NJSTARS and NJSTARS II programs, in 2008, the programs were modified to enhance eligibility requirements and to make the program fiscally sustainable particularly in the face of the State’s difficult budget situation.  The changes to the NJSTARS program include:

  • Covering up to 18 credits per semester for those students who choose to accelerate their degree program
  • No longer funding remedial course work
  • Requiring students to pass an academic placement exam
  • Imposing a income cap of $250,000 on families

Changes to NJSTARS II includes:

  • Applying a tiered scholarship amount based on GPA
  • Limiting the obligation of participating State and public colleges to 50% of the NJSTARS II scholarship
  • Imposing a $250,000 family impose cap

Analysis of NJSTARS students shows their performance, as measured by grade point average and the number of degree credits earned, is higher than other full-time students at New Jersey institutions.  NJSTARS scholars also show a higher retention rate than their peers.  Most importantly, the majority of these high achieving students are expected to remain in New Jersey after graduation, sustaining our highly educated workforce, and investing in the State.  Through programs like NJSTARS and NJSTARS II, New Jersey is in a strong position to compete globally in the 21st century.

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E. Michael Angulo, Esq., is Executive Director of the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority Since 1959, the Authority, which administers the NJSTARS and NJSTARS II programs, has delivered over $18 billion in state and federal financial aid for more than 1 million students.  Annually, HESAA presents workshops, training programs and other outreach events to thousands of students, parents, guidance counselors and financial aid professionals in an effort to help them understand the benefits of higher education in New Jersey and the resources available to make that education affordable.

A New York State of Mind Could Impact NJ

By Richard A. Lee

When I worked in the Governor’s Office, one of the strategies we employed during difficult budgetary times was to show that things were even worse in other parts of the country.

One year, I authored an op-ed article pointing out that Arkansas was eliminating scholarships to state colleges, Arizona was closing parks, Maine was raising its gas tax, and Kansas was doubling franchise fees for companies conducting business in the state.

On paper, demonstrating that the grass is not always greener on the other side sounded like a good strategy. But in practice, its impact was minimal. No matter what draconian actions were being taken elsewhere, New Jerseyans were not about to forget about taxes and fees, cutbacks in programs and services, and the use of one-shot revenue sources to balance the budget.

But things could be different this year thanks to our neighbors to the north.

In case you haven’t been following the adventures of the New York State Senate over the past week or so, lawmakers in the Empire State have engaged in a bizarre series of activities that make politics in New Jersey look good by comparison. As former New York mayor Edward Koch told The New York Times. “I believe it’s not only disgraceful, but it makes New York look like a banana republic.”

Democrats held a 32-30 majority in the New York Senate until June 8 when two of their members joined with the 30 Republicans to form a new majority. But before the new majority could vote to elect one of its members to lead the Senate, Democrats abruptly adjourned the session. Republicans then argued that the session was not properly adjourned and proceeded to elect a new Senate President and Majority Leader. Meanwhile, Democrats maintained that the vote was illegal and that they still held the leadership posts.

The new Republican-led coalition attempted to conduct business, but was unable to do so because the bills that required action had been locked in a desk by Democratic lawmakers.  In addition, Democrats asked Governor David Paterson to change the locks on the Senate chamber (a request that was denied), and one of the Democratic Senators who had joined with the Republicans to form the new majority returned to the Democratic caucus, creating a 31-31 deadlock among the 62 members in the upper House.

So why might this situation be a more effective tool for New Jersey strategists than the drastic fiscal steps that other states were taking several years ago?

To paraphrase Dorothy: it’s because this isn’t Kansas anymore. It’s one thing to run off a list of tax hikes and funding cuts from unfamiliar states that many New Jerseyans may never visit, let alone take the time to scrutinize their budgets. It’s much different when the action is taking place closer to home. Not only do we share a border with New York, we also share a media market. With all respect to the news organizations and journalists in our state, the truth is large numbers of New Jerseyans obtain their news from New York television, which has given extensive coverage to the battle over leadership of the New York Senate – as have New York newspapers and radio, which also have sizeable audiences in the Garden State.

All of this creates an opportunity for Governor Jon Corzine and the Democratic majority in the New Jersey Legislature as they put the finishing touches on this year’s state budget. Given the current fiscal climate, the budget may not offer much in the way of good news, but it will look much better in the context of what is transpiring in New York State. New Jersey Democrats can rightfully argue that – even if citizens are unhappy with components of the budget – at least they made tough decisions and managed to enact a budget on time, in difficult economic times, and without the bedlam taking place in our neighboring state, where legislators cannot even agree on who is in charge.

Of course, New Jersey Republicans can just as easily point to 2006 when Democrats were unable to come to agreement on the budget before the June 30 Constitutional deadline, leading to a shutdown of state government. But that was three years ago, and people’s memories are short – even shorter when the images of the chaos in New York are being emblazoned in their minds by the New York-based media organization from which many of our residents obtain their news and information.

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Looking for Balance in All the Right Places

By Richard A. Lee

Are New Jersey’s candidates for governor overlooking an important factor as they search for lieutenant governor running mates?

To date, it appears that the candidates have been seeking to balance their tickets by choosing a running mate whose ethnicity, gender, ideology and/or geography brings balance to the ticket.

But one important factor that has been absent from the discussion about balance is age.

Governor Jon Corzine is 62. Chris Christie, his Republican opponent, is 46.  But the gap between their ages is not nearly as wide as the gap that separates the two of them from millennial generation voters — individuals who were born between 1981 and 1990. This is a group that played a critical role in last year’s presidential election, and its members should not be taken for granted in this year’s campaign for governor.

The current crop of lieutenant governor candidates, however, does little to narrow the gap between millennials and the political establishment in New Jersey.  Of the names that have surfaced as potential running mates – Democrats Barbara Buono, Doug Palmer, Albio Sires, Bonnie Watson Coleman and Loretta Weinberg and Republicans Jennifer Beck, Kathe Donovan and Diane Allen — only one (Beck) is under 55. (Two 40-year-olds, Democrat Cory Booker and Republican Thomas Kean Jr., were regarded as possible lieutenant governor candidates until each indicated he was not interested in the post.)

It is easy to argue that age should not be a factor.  People are living and working longer than ever today, making productive contributions to society.  And there is no substitute for the experience and institutional knowledge that any of these possible lieutenant governor candidates would bring to the job.

But perception often is more important than reality in the world of politics.

The most important responsibility of the lieutenant governor is to assume leadership of the state should the governor leave office – either by choice, or due to illness, accident or even death.  With this in mind, a bright and energetic running mate could be perceived as an asset.  The lieutenant governor, like the governor, needs to be just 30 years of age, according to the New Jersey State Constitution. To appeal to younger voters, a candidate need not be in his or her early thirties, but he or she must be someone who understands that the issues and priorities of millennials are markedly distinct from older citizens.

Beyond perception, there is a practical reason for selecting a running mate who can appeal to younger voters. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University found that some 23 million individuals under the age of 30 voted in the 2008 presidential election – an increase of 3.4 million from the 2004 election.

“The 2008 election not only marked the election of America’s first African-American president, it also saw the strong and clear political emergence of a new, large and dynamic generation and the realignment of American politics for the next 40 years,” Morley Winograd and Michael Hais wrote in a piece for NDN, a think tank and advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.

For political parties in New Jersey and elsewhere, there is an advantage to reaching out to young voters that may extend far beyond a single political campaign. According to the Century Foundation, a public policy research institution with offices in New York and Washington, D.C., “Studies point out that voting is habit forming, with the odds increasing significantly that, once a person has voted, he or she will vote again, indicating long-term impacts on parties and politics.”

Lastly, there are intangible benefits to bringing young people into the process. They have more at stake in the long-term future as opposed to short-term gains – a factor that can lead to sounder public policy decisions.  In addition, what they lack in experience can be offset by the fresh approach they bring to issues that have been unresolved for years.

A few years ago, I went back to school to earn a Ph.D. in media studies. It has been a great experience, and a big part of this positive experience has been what I have learned from professors who are younger than I am and students who are even younger.  My generation – Democrats and Republicans alike – has left the State of New Jersey with plenty of problems. As we search for solutions, a good place to find them may be with our next generation of leaders.

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