Election Day is here. Statewide balloting taking place today throughout New Jersey hasn’t attracted much attention. But control of the state Assembly is at stake, and county freeholder and local municipal and school board races also are on the ballot.
The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. This polling place finder can help you find where to cast your ballot by plugging in your home address.
Because the state’s legislative districts have been drawn to favor one of the major parties or the other, few Assembly races are competitive. Of those, the parties are truly fighting in just three districts:
A mid-October poll found the Democratic ticket of incumbent Bob Andrzejczak and Vietnam veteran Bruce Land leading by no more than 3 percentage points, which was within the poll’s margin of error. They had outspent their opponents, Assemblyman Samuel Fiocchi and Cumberland County Freeholder Jim Sauro, by more than 2-to-1 as of Oct. 23 and have had the benefit of $1.2 million in support from a national pro-Democratic SuperPAC.
Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, does not expect to see much change when all the votes are counted.
“It’s anybody’s guess in 1 and 2, but that’s all,” he said. “The Dems have been spending a lot of money in 11, but that would still be a shocker if they could pull it off.”
The 11th in Monmouth County is another district to watch because of the effort the Democrats are making to try to unseat Republican Assemblywomen Mary Pat Angelini and Caroline Casagrande. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district, but the GOP has held a tight lock on the seats. Challengers Joanne Downey and Eric Houghtaling have outspent the incumbents by more than 2-to-1 and labor has been making a big push for the Democratic ticket. Sensing Christie’s unpopularity, Angelini and Casagrande have sent out mailers trying to distance themselves from him.
The other districts to watch are Central Jersey’s 16th and the 27th, which straddles Essex and Morris counties. In the 16th, Republicans hold both Assembly seats, but registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans and the Democratic team had outspent the incumbents as of Oct. 23. In the 27th, Democrats hold a substantial voter edge, but past races have been close and the Republican challengers had spent almost as much as the Democratic incumbents as of the last regular ELEC filing.
All 80 seats in the lower house are on the ballot in this off-year election. With so few true contests, voter turnout could hit a new record low. The last time the Assembly topped the ballot, in 1999, 31 percent of voters went to the polls. Four years ago, when the state Senate was the highest office up for election, just 27 percent of those registered voted.
A Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released last Tuesday found that three-quarters of New Jerseyans did not even know there is a state election this year.
To take control of the Assembly from the Democrats, the Republicans would have to win nine seats, which is unlikely. They currently hold 32 of the 80 seats in the lower house.
In total, 171 candidates are on seeking 80 seats in the Assembly: 77 Democrats, 77 Republicans and 17 independents. The Republicans in the 8th District in Atlantic, Burlington and Camden counties are unopposed, while in the 34th in Essex and Passaic, only one Republican and an independent are challenging the Democratic incumbents.
There is a special election for one Senate seat in the 5th District in Gloucester and Camden counties, where Democratic Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez, who was appointed earlier this year to replace Donald Norcross, who was elected to Congress, faces no opposition in her quest to keep her seat for the next two years.
For those voters who may not have made up their minds, NJ Spotlight’s election guide includes information on all the races.