Leadership & Staff

League of Women Voters of New Jersey Board of Directors


Jennifer M. Howard, President

Jennifer M. Howard, MD, MPH is the President of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. She has been a member of the League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area since 2013 and currently serves on the Leadership Committee. Jennifer is a practicing OB/GYN physician in NYC having also previously practiced in NJ. She has been a Vice President for the African American Parent Support Group, WW-P Regional School district (a parent advocacy organization with over 25 years of addressing racial disparities and educational achievement gaps in African-American students), a preceptor to medical students and residents, a medical volunteer for overseas medical missions and a medical director of a reproductive health organization. She received her undergraduate degree from Harvard/Radcliffe, her medical school degree from Howard University’s College of Medicine and her Master’s of Public Health from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Iveth P. Mosquera, First Vice President

Iveth joined the state board of the League of Women Voters of NJ (LWVNJ) in 2019, currently serves as second VP of Programs, and co-chairs the statewide Membership committee. Iveth works as Director of Communications and Public Relations at Matheny School and Hospital - an accredited nonprofit organization serving children & adults with medically complex disabilities.

Since 2008, Iveth has served on the board of LUPE Fund and is currently the President. LUPE is a non-profit organization dedicated to civic engagement, education, and leadership development for Latinas. She is a co-founder of the LUPE Latina Leadership Scholarship that has awarded nearly $100,000 in scholarships since 2011.

Iveth was named in the Influencer: Women in Business list in March 2022 by ROI-NJ. That same year, Iveth was appointed to the advisory board of the Center for Hispanic Policy Research and Development and continues to serve in this capacity. In 2005, Iveth earned a Master's degree from the Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration. Born and raised in Newark to Ecuadorian parents, she currently resides in Kearny NJ with her husband and two sons.

Deborah McComber, Second Vice President

Deborah McComber is a communications consultant specializing in communications strategies for small nonprofits and local businesses withlimited resources to meet the challenges of the tech world. She designs and manages websites, social media / email marketing campaigns andpublic relations strategies for organizations in the Morristown, New Jersey area. For the League of Women Voters of the Morristown Area, Debbie developed a website and social networking campaign and manages both. She brought together local Leagues and provided tech support for shared virtual candidates’ debates. At the state level, Debbie served on the advisory committee to the Fair Districts New Jersey campaign.
Debbie represented the League as co-organizer of the NJ Women’s March in Morristown 2018, adult advisor to March for Our Lives Morristown 2018, and webmaster for the NJ Women’s March in 2019. She coorganized the NJ Leagues’ RBG Legacy Rally in 2020. Debbie is a graduate of Wellesley College with a degree in Mathematics and a background in economic research and forecasting. Upon moving to Morristown, she became actively involved in the schools and community, including serving as trustee for the Morris Educational Foundation, administrator for the Whippany River Watershed Action Committee, and communications coordinator for The Presbyterian Church in Morristown.

Janet Fisher-Hughes, Treasurer

Elected to the Board of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey in 2021, Janet Fisher-Hughes serves on the Finance, Budget, Communications, and Strategic Planning Committees. She has applied her professional skills and experience as a marketing research consultant to conduct interviews among current and former League members. The resulting insights from these interviews have been used to inform LWVNJ’s Strategic Plan. Janet has been on the Board of the League of Women Voters of Camden County since 2018, serving as Treasurer since 2022. She has directed LWVCC’s Running & Winning program and Vote411 efforts and very much enjoys moderating candidate forums and registering voters at naturalization ceremonies. Janet lives in Pennsauken with her husband, Bob and dog, Griff. She is Treasurer of the Pennsauken Historical Society and is a member of the Westmont Accordion Club. Janet holds a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Spanish from the University of Pennsylvania.

Mariel Mercado-Guevara, Secretary

Mariel Mercado-Guevara, Esq., has been a member of the League of Women Voters of Ridgewood since 2020 and now serves as a Board Member of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. She is a corporate defense attorney and civil litigator practicing in the areas of insurance law, intellectual property, and workers compensation defense and is licensed in both New York and New Jersey. Mariel frequently speaks and writes about voter suppression, insurance law, legal ethical issues, and diversity and inclusion matters. Before becoming a lawyer, Mariel was the New Jersey Hispanic Campaign Coordinator for Barack Obama’s first Presidential campaign. This inspired her to become a lawyer in order to expand her service to her community. She has served as a Panelist on Contract Law and a Coach for the Hispanic Entrepreneurship Training Program with the NJ Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She has also served as Past-Chair of the Minorities in Profession Section with the New Jersey State Bar Association, and is a longtime member of the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey. Mariel earned her Juris Doctorate from Rutgers University Law School, Newark. She also graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelors degree from Boston University in classical vocal music, and was a professional Opera Singer for several years before moving to the New Jersey/New York tristate area.


Jessica Backofen

Jess Backofen is the executive director at The Foundation for University Hospital and is charged with raising funds to support the Hospital’s vulnerable patient community. Prior to joining the Foundation, Jess held leadership roles at the American Cancer Society, Friends of the Children and JDRF International over the past 20 years, building strategic partnerships with philanthropists, corporations, and foundations to scale impact and accelerate mission.   Ms. Backofen graduated from Quinnipiac University with a BS in Health Administration and currently sits on the board of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. 

Lucienne Beard

Lucy was the Alice Paul Institute’s Executive Director until 2021, where she established public visitation at Paulsdale, Alice Paul’s birthplace in Mt. Laurel, and created the Alice Paul Leadership Programs for girls to inspire today’s young women to pursue leadership into the future.  Beard led efforts to raise awareness of Alice Paul’s work for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.  Beard co-chaired New Jersey’s statewide commemoration of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. She co-chairs the board of directors of the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites. She is a charter member of Kiwanis of Greater Mount Laurel and is an active member of the Mt. Laurel Society of Friends (Quaker) Meeting.  She earned a B.S. in International Affairs from The George Washington University and an M.A. in American History from Rutgers University.  Beard lives in Mt. Laurel with her husband and the world’s friendliest cat.

Marlena Brown

Dr. Marlena Brown is a Sr. Specialist in Quality Engineering E-Systems at Bristol Myers Squibb in the Cell Therapy Operations division. She is a graduate of New Jersey Institute of Technology where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering and Masters in both Engineering Management and Pharmaceutical Engineering. In 2014 she earned her doctorate in Biomedical Engineering from Rutgers University where her research focused on the feasibility of the utilization of drop-on-demand technology in the fabrication of flexible dosing and novel multi-drug dosage forms.Marlena has worked in bio-pharma space for over ten years. Her main area of focus has been in quality, compliance, and manufacturing for oral solid dose (OSD), topical, and CAR-T Therapy for cancer treatments.Marlena is an active member of the Monmouth County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and the Central Jersey Club of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs.Originally born in Neptune and raised in Asbury Park, NJ, Marlena recognizes her responsibility to give back and volunteers her time and services to help others. Marlena is a volunteer member of the Medical Reserve Corps of Monmouth County and a recent volunteer member of the American Red Cross.In her spare time, she enjoys comedy, reading, and spending time with her family.

Deborah Y. Lee

Deborah Lee joined the League of Women Voters in Ridgewood in 2020 and currently serves as a Director, as well as co-chair of the Ridgewood League’s Education committee. She is also a co-chair of the NJ State Education committee. Deb is currently the Founder & CEO of Dancing Panda (www.dancingpanda.com), an education technology startup focused on family engagement. She has been in a variety of different roles in education - from a Chief of Staff consultant supporting senior education leaders to an operational school leader at an elementary school in East Harlem. She also was a founding team member of edtech startup Newsela, and led the talent development and antiracism work at an education non-profit in East Harlem. Deb has a Masters in Education Leadership from the Broad Center, an MBA from Babson College focused on Social Entrepreneurship, and a BA in Economics from Wellesley College.

Jin Hwang

Jin Hwang is a seasoned in-house counsel with management experience and expertise in several areas of law.  Most recently, Ms. Hwang was Associate General Counsel with Verizon Communications Inc., a Dow 30 company.  Prior to her 16-plus years with Verizon, Ms. Hwang was an attorney with France Télécom (now Orange).  Ms. Hwang is excited to found a startup, which will provide financial counseling, equity and inclusion consulting, and executive coaching.

For decades, Ms. Hwang has been passionate about equity, inclusion, and access for all.  Among various leadership roles in New Jersey and at the national level, Ms. Hwang was honored to serve as the president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association in 2015-2016 to promote advancement in the legal profession and advocate for APIAs in society, including protecting U.S. citizens’ right to vote and be counted. 

Ms. Hwang earned her bachelor’s degree with double majors in Psychology and French Studies with honors from the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with a law degree from American University’s Washington College of Law.

Yvette J. Lincoln

Yvette J. Lincoln, Executive Director of Business Process & Governance Excellence, Global Product Development & Supply, Bristol Myers Squibb. Yvette identifies and drives strategic initiatives for process and system improvements for global teams.Yvette believes that by combining diverse perspectives, cutting edge science and outof- the-box thinking, that we can provide more lifesaving medications to patients around the world with life threatening illnesses every day.Yvette holds an MBA and a MS in Finance from Drexel University and BS of Chemical Engineering and Biochemistry from Rutgers University. She is a Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSPC), Certified Business Continuity Professional (CBCP) and is PMP certified.In her free time Yvette enjoys serving the community with her sorority, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, playing golf with her daughters and is an avid jazz fan. She and her family reside in Southern New Jersey and are members of Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated.

Lauren F. Nance

Lauren Nance is an active contributor to the business, service, and civic uplift of northern New Jersey. Driven by her passion for efficiency and community, Lauren frequently leverages her community connections to help other people excel.

As Chief Executive Officer of Nance Communications, LLC, and a Certified Meeting Professional, Lauren is an award-winning contributor to her profession. Her clients include nonprofits, entrepreneurs and creatives in a variety of industries. Nance’s greatest body of work in service, civic engagement, and leadership engagement is done through Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. She joined while attending Rutgers University in 1989. Zeta’s global impact on social action, community service, and voter education initiatives are well known. Nance has served in several leadership roles, including local chapter president and on the board of directors. Nance has also served on the board of directors of Meeting Professionals International, New Jersey Chapter, as its director of education.

For nearly 30 years, Nance has shared her life and love with retired law enforcement officer, Bert Nance, Jr. They have one daughter who is studying to be a music therapist for children.

Henal Patel

Henal Patel is Director of the Democracy & Justice Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.  

Before joining the Institute, Henal was an associate at McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter.  Previously, Henal had the honor of serving as a law clerk to Chief Justice Stuart Rabner on the New Jersey Supreme Court.  While in law school, Henal was an Eagleton Institute of Politics fellow, participated in the Constitutional Litigation Clinic, and served as an assistant to the Chairman of the New Jersey Redistricting Commission. Henal received her J.D. from the Rutgers University School of Law – Newark and B.A. from Rutgers University.

Kelly Shea

Dr. Kelly A. Shea is an associate professor of English/Director of the First-Year Writing Program (and former Writing Center director) at Seton Hall University. She teaches undergraduate and graduate composition and literature courses; trains graduate students as composition instructors; and studies, presents, and publishes on writing, teaching, faculty development, and technology issues - and their intersections. She is a co-leader of the SHU reading-/writing-intensive core proficiency project and works closely with SHU’s Teaching, Learning, and Technology Center on course management systems, virtual instruction platforms, digital humanities tools, and other pedagogy-improvement initiatives. She was a founding member and officer of the League of Women Voters of Warren and West Morris Counties (NJ) and has been actively involved with voter education, voter registration, get-out-the-vote, and other LWV initiatives since 2018. She is also a small business owner in Hackettstown, NJ, and, like her two grown sons, has been a lifelong, attentive voter.

Off Board Positions

Nancy Hedinger, Budget Committee Chair

Nancy is a past president of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. Over the last biennium, she served as co-chair of the LWVNJ Development and Government Program Committees and as a member of the LWVNJ Nominating Committee. She is currently serving as the president of the League of Women Voters of the Morristown Area. Nancy was Budget Chair for LWVUS last year and looks forward to drawing on her experience in this corresponding role as LWVNJ Budget Chair for the 2023 - 2025 biennium.

Evelyn C. Murphy, Nominating Committee Chair

Evelyn C. Murphy, Ph.D. (she/her/hers) was elected to the LWVNJ Nominating Committee in 2019 and elected chair in 2021. She is CoPresident of the LWV of Monmouth County, an LWVNJ Certified Moderator, and a member of the LWVNJ Development Committee. At LWVUS, Evelyn was appointed to the League Structure Task force in 2021, charged with addressing organizational capacity, and now contributes to “Framing the Future” with the Business Modeling Working Group. She served as an LWVUS Delegate to the 65th Annual Session of the UN Committee on the Status of Women in March 2021. An economist by training, Evelyn began her career in the banking industry at the Federal Reserve Banks of New York and Minneapolis before moving to the nonprofit sector. Today, she works with nonprofits, entrepreneurs, and government agencies as a management consultant. Evelyn holds a BA in Economics from Manhattanville College and a PhD in Economics from Michigan State University with concentrations in industrial organization, banking, and finance.


Jesse Burns, Executive Director

Jesse has been on staff with the League of Women Voters of New Jersey since 2007, previously serving as Communications Director before becoming the organization’s executive director in 2015. Under Jesse’s leadership, the League has strengthened its position as a critical, influential, and trusted voting rights and civic engagement organization, providing nonpartisan voter education to hundreds of thousands of voters, protecting them at the polls, and advancing equitable policy reforms. The League has championed recent voting rights advancements including online voter registration, automatic voter registration, an end to prison-based gerrymandering, in-person early voting, and rights restoration for people on parole and probation, among others. Jesse has sat on two New Jersey Supreme Court committees, was named to the 2023 Insider Out 100: LGBTQ Power List, and is the recipient of LUPE Fund’s 2022 Power of Women Amiga Award. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Dickinson College and a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from Drew University.

Lucy Del Gaudio, Director of Advocacy and Organizing

Lucy Del Gaudio is a dedicated advocate who joined the League of Women Voters of New Jersey in April 2024.  A US Army Veteran, Lucy has been a strong advocate for veterans within the state and nationally. She served as the founding Co-Chair for the New Jersey SOS Veterans Stakeholders Women Sub Committee, which under her tenure, was instrumental in establishing June 12th as Women Veteran Appreciation Day. Lucy is part of the grassroots #MeTooMilitary movement started at the height of the death of Specialist Vanessa Guillen. On July 29, 2020, she testified in front of the House Armed Services Committee: The Military MeToo Movement to call for the formal investigation of Fort Hood (now Fort Cavazos).  She was appointed by Veteran Affairs Secretary Dennis McDonough to the Workgroup for Sexual Harassment/Sexual Assault and by Governor Phil Murphy to the Committee for Women Veterans. She has volunteered for organizations such as the Pink Berets and Minority Veterans of America. Lucy has worked for major corporations within the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging and Culture & Engagement space. Lucy is the recipient of several Points of Light Service Awards and named to the Points of Light 2022 Inspirational Honor Roll. She also was named a 2020 Hispanic Star by the We Are Human Campaign. She was most recently inducted into the Army Women’s Foundation Hall of Fame – Class of 2024.

Zach Dougherty, Community Organizer

Zach Doughtery is a dedicated community organizer who joined the League of Women Voters of New Jersey team in 2024. His commitment to civic engagement is evident through his role as the co-founder of New Jersey's March for Our Lives Movement, which earned him the League's Making Democracy Work Award in 2019. At age 17, Zach received a pen from Governor Murphy for his efforts to pass landmark legislation aimed at protecting schools from the threat of gun violence. Zach also spearheaded efforts to establish the New Jersey Legislative Youth Council, a forum for the state's youth to advise the Legislature and all of its committees, commissions, and task forces on their needs, opinions, and welfare for all youth in New Jersey. Insider NJ has recognized him for six consecutive years on their Top 100 Millennials in NJ Politics Power List. A proud alumnus of Monmouth University, Zach holds a bachelor's degree in history and political science. He gained experience interning in both houses of the United States Congress as well as the New Jersey State Legislature. He is currently pursuing a master's degree in legislative affairs at the George Washington Graduate School of Political Management, equipping him with skills to advocate for change and policy reform.

Elissa Kapp, Operations Coordinator

Elissa joined the League of Women Voters of New Jersey as Operations Coordinator in 2023 to support the organization’s office administration and day-to-day operations. She is excited to remake and refresh the processes and tools that help the League do its timely work. Prior to her work with the League, Elissa worked for over five years as Project Coordinator at a regional nonprofit that supports the state’s autism community. Her contributions to the organization’s projects and data-based initiatives highlight a passion for utilizing technology to maximize organizational efficiency. When she needs a screen break, Elissa may be doing yoga or drawing. Her illustrations can be found in The Birthday Thief, a picture book she published along with her husband in 2015. She is inspired every day by her beloved and very spoiled pets.

Melissa Marks, Senior Organizer

Melissa grew up in New York and graduated from Lehigh University where she studied the environment, political science, and business. After graduating she worked in environmental advocacy with Clean Water Action where she was able to develop future activists and fight for environmental protections as Canvass Director. In her role with the League, Melissa focuses on voter turnout and education and mobilizing members to advocate for priority legislation to make NJ a more equitable state.

Norhan Osman, Communications Associate

Norhan Osman joined as the League of Women Voters of New Jersey’s Communications Associate in 2024. A proud alumnus of the Rutgers University Honors program, Norhan holds bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice and comparative literature, and two minor certificates in creative writing and Spanish. Outside of the classroom, she served as Vice President of the Rutgers Professional Fraternity Council and volunteered for social causes both at home and abroad. Namely in Peru, where she completed her Honors Research Capstone on the struggles of the Indigenous population. In addition to Spanish, Norhan is also fluent in Arabic, making her trilingual. Her interdisciplinary experiences have honed her into a critical thinker, communication powerhouse, and a creative visionary. Previously, Norhan worked for the Rutgers Research Center for Women and Work and the Rutgers Center for Cultural Analysis for 4 years as an Office Assistant. In years prior, she served as a Policy Research Intern heading many sub-caucuses for a primary political campaign. Her background in poetry and the arts infuses her work with unique visual flair, combining her passion for democracy and her belief in the power of communication. Norhan is eager to create compelling narratives that reach new audiences and inspire greater involvement in the League of Women Voters of New Jersey.