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Elections 2016

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Questions About Almost Anything Related to Voting? We’ve Got Answers

Everything is covered, from the location of polling places to what you can do in the event of a problem voting

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Today is Election Day, with New Jersey voters heading to the polls to choose a president, a dozen members of Congress, and county and local candidates, as well as decide the fate of two statewide ballot questions and, in some cases, local issues and school board seats.

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. statewide. Anyone unsure of where to vote can find their polling places here.

In addition to the federal and local races, a handful of unexpired terms in the state Legislature are also on the ballot in parts of Essex and Middlesex counties.

Two groups at Rutgers University have put together very different guides to help make voting a little easier.

The Eagleton Institute of Politics has gathered together information on every race on the ballot throughout New Jersey. The 2016 NJ General Election Candidates list includes sample ballots or candidate lists for every office — from school and municipal levels up to the presidency. Local data is arranged by county so it is easy to find. The guide also includes a link to help people find their polling place.

The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School has created a guide to help make voting easier for people with disabilities.

Called Voting: It's Your Right, the guide covers topics ranging from registering to vote to how to cast a ballot by mail or in person. Its 28 pages are written in simple language and the guide is available in English and Spanish.

The guide includes a host of information that can help the disabled cast ballots today. For instance, it notes that a person can ask as many as two people for help voting and that if local poll workers provide assistance, they should send one Democrat and one Republican into the voting booth to give that help. People can ask someone to show them how to use the voting machine and can cast their votes verbally, with someone else pressing the levers.

Every polling location should have at least one accessible voting machine, according to the guide. Those with disabilities have the right to have certain accommodations, such as a ramp for a wheelchair, so they can vote. The guide includes a link with which voters can check to see if their local polling place is accessible.

The guide also discusses problems that might come up on Election Day and how to solve them, for instance, by casting a provisional ballot or going to court to ensure one is able to vote. It includes the number for Disability Rights New Jersey — 1-800-922-7233 — in case of a problem. DRNJ operates the federally funded Protection and Advocacy for Voter Access program. PAVA funded the guide and DRNJ and the NJ Council on Developmental Disabilities worked with the Boggs Center on its development.

Those interested in learning more about the state's congressional and legislative races can check out NJ Spotlight's Voter Guide, which includes stories on each of the races and on the two statewide ballot questions, a map and database that can help people locate their congressional districts, as well as links to other voting resources.

All 12 of New Jersey's congressional seats are contested, but the only race too close to call is the 5th District in the extreme northwest, where seven-term Republican Scott Garrett is trying to fend off a challenge from well-funded Democrat Joshua Gottheimer.

In fact, the Rothenberg and Gonzales Political Report currently rates the race as a toss-up but tilting Democratic. The race has been nasty, with the ultra-conservative incumbent personally outspending the former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, but Gottheimer has benefitted from about $11 million in outside spending from three groups, some on ads for him and most on ads against Garrett.

Both statewide ballot questions have proven somewhat controversial. The first question, asking to expand casino gambling to two counties outside Atlantic City, is expected to fail, with the most recent poll showing 70 percent of people against bringing casinos to north Jersey. The second question, which seeks to dedicate the gas tax to pay for infrastructure repairs through the Transportation Trust Fund, has become a cause for those upset with the recent 23-cent gas-tax increase and led to confusion, as some believe voting “no” will rescind the hike — it will not.

Topping the ballot is the race for the presidency. Democrat Hillary Clinton has been leading in all the polls in New Jersey — the most recent, in mid-October, had her with 51 percent of the vote, 11 points above Republican Donald Trump — and is expected to win. New Jersey has voted blue for president in each of the past six elections. And Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 800,000, according to the latest voter registration figures from the New Jersey Division of Elections.

The state's voter rolls climbed to 5.8 million, but it's unclear how many people will vote. Turnout has been dropping steadily: just 22 percent last year, and 67 percent in the presidential election in 2012.

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