NJ voter turnout was highest for a midterm since 1982
Results from last month’s elections will be made official Monday at the Statehouse, including the largest voter turnout in a congressional midterm election in 36 years.
Fifty-six percent of registered voters turned out for this year’s general election in New Jersey, according to election results published by the 21 county clerks. That’s up significantly from 36 percent in the midterm election four years earlier and the highest for a midterm since 1982.
“It’s amazing. Voter turnout was near presidential levels in this election,” said Monmouth University political scientist Patrick Murray. “This was just an election that people felt mattered. And it certainly was higher in those races which were competitive, and we had a lot of them in New Jersey, which helps. But they were even high in places that weren’t considered competitive.”
Two-thirds more voters participated this year than in the 2014 midterms, with the largest increases in Hudson, Morris and Essex counties. Turnout percentages were closest to matching the 2016 presidential race in Burlington, Hunterdon, Morris and Somerset counties, at 85 percent or higher.
“We had seen a surge in Democratic interest in this election early on, but the Republicans caught up with that,” Murray said. “And so it really was high turnout across the board.”
Turnout topped 60 percent in four counties: Hunterdon, Bergen, Morris and Burlington. It remained below 50 percent in three: Cumberland, Hudson and Passaic.
Nearly 3.25 million New Jerseyans voted in this year’s election – more than in any election except for six in which the president was on the ballot.
Is the unprecedented surge in voter turnout sustainable – and can it repeat in 2019, when the low-profile state Assembly races will top the ballot? Almost certainly not at those levels, considering that the 2015 state midterms had a measly, record-low turnout of 22 percent. But Murray expects next year’s election to attract people who don’t normally vote in state legislative races.
“Not high turnout, but I think slightly higher than what we would normally see,” Murray said.
As for 2020, expect off-the-charts participation, particularly if President Donald Trump runs for re-election,” Murray said.
“We will see record turnout for a presidential race – and maybe even record turnout not just in raw numbers but maybe even in the percentage of eligible voters who show up to vote in ways that we haven’t seen in a hundred years,” he said.
The state’s all-time record turnout was 91 percent in 1960, when 2.8 million of the state’s nearly 3.1 million registered voters participated in the election won by John F. Kennedy. Presidential election turnout was above 80 percent as recently as 1992 and above 70 percent through 2008. It was 67 percent in the 2016 election.
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