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Poll: Is There a Way to Cure the Anemic Turnout for NJ's Primaries?

With less than 8 percent of eligible voters bothering to show up, can anything be done to put some electricity back in the elections?

Tuesday’s primary election may have brought about a few surprises -- the ease of victory by Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, making her likely to become the first black woman to join the New Jersey congressional delegation; Jeff Bell, who ran for U.S. Senate over 30 years ago will once again be the Republican standard bearer in the November Senate race; and Tom MacArthur’s huge margin of victory over better known Steve Lonegan in South Jersey’s contest between two carpetbaggers.

But what wasn’t a surprise was the tiny turnout for an off-year primary election. Sadly, these decisions were made by what was at last count, less than 8 percent of registered voters. Only 12.7 percent of registered Democrats and 15.5 Republicans went to the polls.

What, if anything, needs to be done to encourage a broader portion of the electorate to cast their ballots?

  • Nothing. Voting is a right AND a privilege. If someone doesn’t care enough to bother to vote, he or she probably shouldn’t be voting anyway.

  • Better candidates and more competitive districts would help. We should outlaw gerrymandering -- it just serves to protect mediocrity. These politically safe districts don’t stir debate or excite the populace. Let’s have some real contests!

  • We need to change our arcane system of voting to make it more democratic with a small “d.” Most states have early voting and other countries hold elections on the weekends because its more convenient. And what about technology? By now, you would think that we would have found some way to allow people to vote securely from the comfort of their homes.

  • Most registered voters in NJ are independents. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to choose candidates? Let’s have open primaries in which independents can vote in whatever race they choose. Other states do this, including California. We’d get better candidates that way.

  • The whole system is rigged to discourage the average person from voting. We need to get rid of our two-party system. Whether that means having non-partisan elections or creating a viable third party, we need to do something before our country – and state – become beyond saving.

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