Voter turnout in NJ rose sharply this year … but still low
How you see voter turnout in November, which was certified Monday along with other New Jersey election results, depends on whether you’re the type of person who sees the ballot box as half full or half empty.
Participation amounted to 26.8% of registered voters, the second-lowest on record for a general election in the state. Less than one of every four people registered voted in five of the state’s 21 counties, ‘led’ by just 17% turnout in Essex County.
On the bright side, though, the number of voters – 1,623,837 – was 39% more than four years ago, when Assembly elections last topped the ballot and fewer than 1.2 million turned out, yielding a 22% record low turnout.
Not since 1991, when 1.86 million people voted, did more people take part in a general election in which the state Legislature topped the ballot but there wasn’t a gubernatorial race. That includes years when the state Senate was on the ballot.
Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce, R-Morris, a member of Board of State Canvassers that met at the Statehouse to certify the election results, said that although it increased, turnout was low.
“That’s up to us to bring the message more to the people, to make them understand, or let them understand, what’s going on in Trenton and what the issues are. And how important their votes are,” DeCroce said.
The increase in participation compared with the same election cycle four years earlier was not as pronounced as 2018, when the number of voters taking part in the congressional midterm rose 66% -- jumping from 1.95 million in 2014, 36% turnout, to 3.25 million in 2018, 56% turnout.
Just three incumbents lost in the general election, all on the Democratic slate in the 1st District, where Sen.-elect Mike Testa and Assemblymen-elect Antwan McClellan and Erik Simonsen were elected. Testa will be sworn into office Thursday, as he won a special election to complete an unexpired term.
Seventy-three Assembly incumbents won re-election. Five other newcomers were elected to first terms in the Assembly, to seats that are remaining with the same political party that currently holds them.
“I hear people speak about term limits, but every two years is a term limit to me,” DeCroce said. “And the people have the right to vote somebody in or out, and that’s what they should do.”
There is the chance for more turnover in the Legislature in the 2021 elections, when both the Senate and Assembly will be on the ballot for two-year terms in races that will be run under a new legislative map drawn to rebalance district populations after the 2020 census.
“I think there will be a change. We’ll see what happens,” DeCroce said. “I think that some of the districts need to be changed. And hopefully we’re going to see a fairer map that what we saw the last round.”
Republican candidates received 44% of the vote for Assembly but won 35% of the seats.