More than 120,000 New Jerseyans registered to vote during the first month the state’s online registration portal was open, with Republicans gaining ground in two tight South Jersey congressional races and Democrats doing better in the north.
It’s unclear whether increasing numbers of Republican registrations might help GOP candidates in the 2nd and 3rd congressional districts.
In the 3rd, spanning parts of Burlington and Ocean counties, the political raters give incumbent Democrat Andy Kim an edge over Republican challenger David Richter. The race between Rep. Jeff Van Drew, the 2nd District Republican, and Democrat Amy Kennedy, is rated a toss-up.
Poll gives Kennedy the edge
A new Monmouth University Poll, however, said Kennedy leads Van Drew, who switched parties last December after refusing to vote to impeach President Donald Trump. Among all registered voters, the poll has Kennedy 49% to 44% for Van Drew. That support nudges up to 50% to 44% among likely voters in a high-turnout scenario, according to the poll released on Monday. Kennedy’s largest margin is in her home county of Atlantic, but she also is slightly ahead of Van Drew in Cape May and Cumberland counties, which he represented as a state legislator before winning the House seat in 2018. Van Drew is ahead in the other five counties that make up the sprawling district. The poll’s margin of error is 4.1 points.
“Cape May and Cumberland county voters got used to supporting Van Drew on the Democratic ticket. This time around many of them are sticking with the party rather than the candidate,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
The district was long represented by moderate Republican Frank LoBiondo before his retirement, but Democrats have outnumbered Republicans for years. Democrats continue to hold a registration lead — 32.7% to 29.1% as of Oct. 1, according to an analysis of voter registration data from the state Division of Elections. But twice as many voters registered Republican as Democrat since Sept. 1: the GOP added 2,934, compared with 1,347 new Democrats.
Murray said the increase in Republican registrants may be due to the GOP doing a better job at contacting and encouraging voters to choose a party.
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“The Republicans are probably doing a lot more in-person contacts,” Murray said.
He alluded to the national political climate, in which Democrats seem to be more cautious about in-person gatherings during COVID-19.
Similarly, Republicans gained more registrants over the past month than Democrats in the 3rd District, about 1,600 more.
Dems gain ground in north
Then again, new Democrats outnumbered Republicans in the 7th District that stretches from the Delaware River in Hunterdon and Warren counties almost to Newark Bay in Union County. In this district, raters give the edge to incumbent Democrat Tom Malinowski, who flipped the district in 2018, over Tom Kean, the Republican leader in the state Senate.
Democratic registrations also bested Republicans in the 11th District centered in Morris County, which flipped to blue two years ago, and in the northernmost 5th District, represented by Democrat Josh Gottheimer.
Overall, more than 120,000 people joined the state’s voter rolls during September, an increase of almost 2%, which Murray termed a big gain. New Jersey now has 6.37 million registered voters; almost four in 10 identify as Democrats.
While it is not known which method people used to register to vote, the state opened an online registration portal for the first time in early September and that likely contributed to the increase, as well as interest in the presidential election.
“There is just a lot of excitement in general, and particularly where there are competitive races,” Murray said.
New Jerseyans have already started voting in the election, which is being conducted primarily by mail. Voters began receiving ballots weeks ago. Monday was the deadline for counties to send those out and all should receive their ballots within the next week.
At least one polling location will be open in each municipality on Nov. 3 (Use this tool to find a local polling place.) Voters will be able to cast ballots in person using a paper provisional ballot. Only those registered can vote. The deadline for registering is Tuesday, Oct. 13.