By Monica Burke and Celia Nolan
As Women’s History Month comes to an end, Rank the Vote would like to put the spotlight on six powerful women leading the all-volunteer movement in New Jersey for Ranked Choice Voting: Renée Steinhagen, April Nicklaus, Kamuela Tillman, Amber Saravia, Agnes Marsala and Christine Adair. These women are champions who have made powerful contributions to the movement. They are trailblazers in our contemporary society working to strengthen our democracy in the hard fight for long-term structural electoral reform.
In the two years since the founding of Voter Choice New Jersey, the organization has set a model for innovation allowing ranked choice voting at the municipal level. New Jersey state law does not allow for individual municipalities to vote to use ranked choice voting, but that didn’t stop Voter Choice NJ.
Christine wanted RCV for her hometown of Hoboken, but that meant navigating the laws and persuading the city council. As Executive Director of New Jersey Appleseed, legal work in the election reform space is familiar territory for Renée. So she wrote the legal language for a trigger ordinance in Hoboken that will put a ballot question to Hoboken voters on whether they want to use RCV, if state law is changed to allow municipalities to have that choice. Christine built relationships with the city councilors to educate them on RCV and led to a unanimous vote by the Council. Next, they will continue this work in other areas of the state to scale the movement.
New Jersey now has a blueprint for setting up more cities and towns with a trigger ordinance methodology to pass RCV in NJ, and other states can do the same. Of course, all this activity means producing campaign materials and other expenses—and Kamuela keeps that engine running. Fundraising is about connecting, explaining, and inspiring, and if you’ve seen Kamuela at a NJ statewide meeting, you know that she’s got all that covered! A special education teacher and grassroots activist, she comes from the financial industry and melds an investment mindset with the heart for electoral reform.
April has a robust history with grassroots campus organizing and works alongside Amber to grow their supporter list while Agnes puts it all together with her graphics design skills.
As an inspiring collective unit, these women work together along with the other team members toward a common goal of one day having RCV in New Jersey.
You can read more about the full NJ leadership team here, their individual teams here, and get involved here.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Rank the Vote, its members, supporters, funders, or affiliates.