What to Know
- Election Day this year marks the end, not the start, of voting across New Jersey as voters decide on the president, Senate, House and whether to legalize recreational marijuana.
- That’s because the state is holding its first mostly mail-in election in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. More than 3.5 million voters have already returned their ballots to county officials, state election authorities have said. That’s 88% of 2016′s turnout.
- The contest between Democrat Joe Biden and Republican President Donald Trump isn’t expected to be close, with Biden favored.
Election Day this year marks the end, not the start, of voting across New Jersey as voters decide on the president, Senate, House and whether to legalize recreational marijuana.
That’s because New Jersey is holding its first mostly mail-in election — state official's response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
More than 3.5 million voters have already returned their ballots to county officials, state election authorities have said. That’s 88% of 2016′s turnout.
The contest between Democrat Joe Biden and Republican President Donald Trump isn’t expected to be close, with Biden favored. Democratic Sen. Cory Booker is also in strong position over Republican challenger Rik Mehta.
The closest races appear to be for House seats. Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew is trying to win a second term against Democrat Amy Kennedy. Van Drew drew national attention in December when he left the Democratic Party for the GOP because he opposed impeaching Trump.
Also closely being watched are the 3rd District race, where freshman Democrat Andy Kim faces Republican David Richter, and the 7th District contest between Democratic freshman Rep. Tom Malinowski and Republican Tom Kean Jr.
Voters are also deciding whether to legalize cannabis for people 21 and over. Polls show about 60% of people support legalization. New Jersey would join the District of Columbia and 11 other states if voters approve the constitutional amendment.
Polls close at 8 p.m.
Tuesday’s election marks the first time New Jersey has ordered an almost entirely mail election.
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy cited the coronavirus outbreak when he first signed the order this summer. At the time, the state saw a decline in COVID-19 cases and was steadily reopening. Now the numbers are headed upward, and Murphy hasn’t announced plans to expand indoor dining, which stands at 25% capacity.
But facing a challenge from Trump and Republicans in U.S. District court claiming the order was a “usurpation” of the Legislature’s rights, he and the Democrat-led Senate and Assembly passed a law setting up the mail-in balloting.
Voters began receiving their ballots in late September and had several ways of casting them. They could return them through the mail, drop them in an official drop box, or take them to their polling place on Election Day. Each county had at least 10 drop boxes, though a number had many more.
It’s unclear how soon the votes might be tallied, but the same law that established this year’s mail-in vote also permitted county boards of elections to begin opening and counting ballots 10 days before Election Day.
Clark Payne III, 57, of Colonia, said he voted in person because he feared his ballot could be lost in the mail. A lab technician who works at a pharmacy. Payne told NJ.com that he voted for Biden and criticized Trump’s handling of the coronavirus.
“When this first came out, if a lot of people had masks on, half the people would be here today. A lot of my friends right here in Colonia passed away from the virus, at least five of my friends that I grew up with,” he said.
Allen Leynes, 72, of Colonia, also had concerns about the mail, telling NJ.com that “you hear some bad stories on the news sometimes, that they lose the stuff. So I came in person to make sure it gets in the right hands.”
Leynes said he voted for Trump “to make the economy better.”
“Trump is the best man for the job. In the past four years, he did phenomenal," Leynes said. "He didn’t cause the virus, you know? And Biden says you’re gonna stop it. How’re you going to stop it with no vaccine? You’re not going to stop it till they get a vaccine.”