About 40 percent of constituents report being blocked from getting tickets to the town halls.
WESTFIELD, New Jersey — (February 18, 2017) — NJ 7 Forward, a group representing concerned residents who live in New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District, criticized Rep. Leonard Lance today for poorly implemented planning of his town hall. The mismanagement has left large numbers of constituents confused, frustrated and blocked from an opportunity to make their voices heard about important issues that face our country today.
NJ 7 Forward posted a survey online, which it sent to numerous groups in the 7th district, and found that of 169 respondents, 41 percent said they were interested in attending a town hall but either didn’t get an email confirming their registration or had been blocked from registering. Several respondents wrote of their frustration and confusion:
— “Will [Lance’s office] allow both days to be completely seated with those who want to attend? Are both days filled?”
–“I registered myself and my husband for seats at the same time but I have only been able to get a ticket for myself. I called Lance’s office several times to see if my husband can get a ticket. I was given mixed info and ultimately did not get any satisfactory response.”
“People in our district are frustrated with what is happening in Washington today and want to make sure that their opinions are heard,” said Joyce Santos, a Flemington, New Jersey resident and a member of the NJ 7 Forward group. “But it feels like Rep. Lance has gone out of his way to make the process of registering for his town halls difficult and redundant for his constituents.”
While Rep. Lance should be applauded for choosing to hold in-person town halls unlike some of his colleagues, the planning of his upcoming town halls on Wednesday, February 22, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, February 25, at 9:30 a.m. at Raritan Valley Community College has felt haphazard to many constituents.
After weeks of protests at his district offices in Westfield and Flemington, New Jersey, Rep. Lance announced on February 9th that he would hold a single town hall on February 22 and opened an online registration portal. When constituents signed up, they received no confirmation, leaving many to wonder if they had successfully registered. Within three days, registration was closed, with the explanation that the number of people already exceeded the 900-person capacity of the venue.
On February 15, Rep. Lance sent another email to a portion of those who had previously registered, announcing an additional town hall on February 25, as well as overflow seating at both events where the live town hall would be broadcasted. The email asked recipients to register again through another different online portal to get tickets. By the next day, registration for the February 22 town hall and overflow rooms were closed—before some who had previously registered for the event had even received an email notification about the changes.
Many couples reported strange discrepancies in their email notices. In some instances, husbands and wives initially registered at the same time, and yet those husbands said that they received the email asking them to re-register a day before their wives received their notice. Even stranger, some husbands who initially registered days after their wives, received the follow-up email first. As a result, several husbands have obtained tickets for the live town hall, while their wives were able to get seating only in the overflow room, suggesting a potentially discriminatory pattern within the planning process.
“My husband received a ticket for the Wednesday town hall before me, and by the time I was given permission to re-register by Lance’s office, I could only choose the Saturday one as Wednesday was sold out,” said Leila Rice, a resident of West Amwell, New Jersey. “I have a lot of questions about how this event has been handled by Rep Lance’s staff. I just want to ask him some questions, and it feels like he is doing everything in his power to avoid that.”
Today, registration is closed for both town halls and overflow rooms due to the demand, and many who wanted to attend will not have that chance. During this debacle, Rep. Lance’s constituents have been referred to his Washington, D.C. office by the local district offices. But when they called, many of them reached a full voice mailbox.
NJ7 Forward is calling on the congressman to schedule additional town halls so that his constituents can feel reassured that their voices will be heard by their elected representative in Congress. Also, the congressman must improve the system by which he manages these town halls in the future to ensure that his constituents do not feel confused, frustrated and discriminated against by the registration process.
About NJ 7 Forward
NJ 7 Forward is a grassroots coalition dedicated to protecting and representing the interests of citizens throughout the 7th Congressional District. It monitors and publicizes Lance’s voting record and positions and promotes transparency, ethics and sensible policies.
Name: Joyce Santos