NJ added 150,000 voters this year — will they show up on Election Day?
The number that truly matters is how many people actually cast a vote on Tuesday, but the 150,000 new-voter signups in New Jersey since January suggest considerable interest in the upcoming midterm elections.
In 2014, the last year featuring midterm elections, the Garden State shed several thousand voters over the same period.
According to data from the Department of State, 5,921,367 residents were registered in time to vote on Election Day 2018. The registered voter count was 5,771,409 in mid January.
Brigid Harrison, professor of political science and law at Montclair State University, expects voter turnout will reflect the stronger-than-usual registration numbers for a midterm year.
Midterm elections serve as a chance for voters to give a thumbs up or down to the president's first two years in office, she noted. And there's no shortage of opinions — good and bad — on the job done so far by Donald Trump.
The races themselves, meanwhile, are more interesting than usual.
New Jersey has one U.S. Senate seat up for grabs, and a number of hotly contested seats are at play in the House of Representatives, making this a critical election for the state as Democrats try to take control of Congress from Republicans.
New Jersey's turnout rate in 2014 was 36 percent. Harrison said it's safe to assume New Jersey will exceed that rate this year.
"We're not going to be as high as presidential election years, but it will be greater than 2014," Harrison said.
Tens of thousands of ballots have already been cast in New Jersey, she added. Mail-in voting, which required an excuse years ago, is easier than ever.
Voter turnout in 2017, which featured a gubernatorial race, was 38.5 percent — down from 39.6 percent in 2013 when Chris Christie earned his second term as New Jersey governor.
Voter turnout in 2016 — 68 percent — was the second lowest for a presidential year.
Moving forward, voter registration will be automatic for eligible state residents who apply for identification at a state Motor Vehicle Commission office, unless they opt out. A bill signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in April set a Nov. 1 deadline for automatic voter registration.
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