The percentage of registered New Jersey voters who cast a ballot in this year's general election tumbled to the lowest level in more than nine decades.
Just 22 percent of registered voters participated in the November election, the lowest percentage going back to 1924, according to state data published Tuesday.
"The public really doesn't think that its vote matters,'' said Peter Woolley, a Fairleigh Dickinson University political science professor. "The public is more and more convinced that the Legislature doesn't work, promises are always broken and that the two parties cannot get the job done.''
The previous low was 25 percent for the October 2013 special election for the U.S. Senate seat that opened after Frank Lautenberg's death. The previous low point for a November general election was 2011 at 27 percent. In that year, the state Senate and Assembly were on the ticket.
Experts expected turnout to be low this year because the Assembly alone was at the top of the ticket for the first time since 1999. In that year, turnout was 31 percent. The Democrat-controlled Assembly picked up four seats in this year's election.
Speaker Vincent Prieto said low turnout has "sadly been the trend,'' which is why Democrats are seeking to change the state's election law. Prieto criticized Gov. Chris Christie for vetoing the so-called Democracy Act, which would have allowed early voting among other changes.
"That's why we're working on the next steps as we continue to fight to make that bill law in some form,'' Prieto said.
Republicans have countered that New Jersey already allows early voting in the form of absentee ballots and that the changes Democrats want would politically favor them.