NJ governor’s race: Turnout exceeds 2.5M; what’s left to count?
TRENTON – Vote counts have been tallied by county clerks in all but 11 precincts around New Jersey, with final, dwindling numbers of mail-in votes still arriving and an unannounced number of provisional ballots still to be considered next week.
The latest unofficial results, including updates from eight counties Friday, show Gov. Phil Murphy ahead of Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli by 62,333 votes, or 2.47%. Murphy is at 50.8% to Ciattarelli’s 48.4%. Murphy's advantage grew by 5,709 votes with the votes added to the county tallies Friday, which appeared to be mail-in votes.
The unofficial counts reflect all precincts in 18 counties but exclude four in Burlington County, five in Camden County and two in Mercer County. The Passaic County webpage appears to show 16 precincts are incomplete, but those are actually vote-by-mail counts for each municipality, not precincts.
No county’s vote-by-mail tally is complete, even if it’s up-to-date, because such ballots are still valid and counted as long as they were properly postmarked by 8 p.m. Tuesday and arrive by 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 8.
Today’s vote-by-mail update, which reflects ballots received through Thursday, show that 587,574 mail-in votes had been labeled as received or accepted but that there were 368,890 requested ballots not yet arrived back at county election offices. Most of those ballots will not be cast.
The mail-in votes include 33,142 received Tuesday, 16,853 received Wednesday and 3,776 received Thursday.
No counties have started counting provisional ballots, which are paper ballots cast by people at a polling place if there is a question about their eligibility or a concern that someone could potentially vote twice, once in person and once through a requested mail-in ballot that could be in transit.
It’s not clear how many provisional ballots there are in all, as the counties don’t report that number to the state. Camden County, as an example, has reported that it has at least 5,800. That amounts to about 1.5% of its registered voters. If the same rate applies statewide, that would be around 98,000 votes.
Counties begin assessing whether to accept provisional ballots on Tuesday, Nov. 9. They could take the rest of next week to analyze them and count the valid votes, in advance of meetings of county boards of canvassers to certify results set for Monday, Nov. 15.
In the 2017 gubernatorial election, 2,198,362 people cast ballots. So far, turnout this year is 2,534,971 and still counting, an increase of 349,400, approaching 16%.
Murphy actually got more votes this year than in 2017. His totals increased in at least 15 of the 21 counties but are down, so far, in two regions: Atlantic, Cumberland and Salem counties in South Jersey and Essex, Hudson and Passaic counties in urban northeastern New Jersey. (With today's update, Murphy's total in Cape May County is now ahead of his 2017 performance.)
Ciattarelli has received over 318,500 more votes than the GOP’s 2017 nominee, then-Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, an increase over 35%. That’s up in every county and includes spikes of 66% in Gloucester County and over 50% in Atlantic and Hudson counties, with the smallest gains in Mercer, Somerset, Middlesex and Hunterdon counties in Central Jersey.
The only governor’s race in New Jersey history in which more people voted was in 1993. The gap between the two elections is now less than 6,500 voters, with 11 precincts, more mail-in votes and all of the provisional votes still to be counted through next week.
Percentage-wise, voter turnout doesn’t appear any better at 39%. But that is in part because the number of people registered to vote is up by 843,000 in four years, up nearly 15%, driven by people engaged recently in national politics who have less interest in state elections. They’re eligible to vote, certainly, but aren’t necessarily engaged in New Jersey politics.
The state has also made it easier to register to vote through online registration and automatic, opt-out registration at Motor Vehicle Commission offices. But the pattern may be similar to what followed the federal ‘motor-voter’ registration law of 1993, which tended to add people to the rolls that didn’t necessarily show up at polling places to participate.
New Jersey Globe reported Tuesday that 574,441 of the people on the voter rolls are inactive voters, reducing the number of active voters to a bit over 6 million.
Turnout percentage is up from 2017 in 11 counties: Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Sussex and Warren.
Turnout percentage is down from 2017, so far, in 10 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Cumberland, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Salem, Somerset and Union.
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at email@example.com.