By the numbers:
–1,515 Highland Park citizens voted for Hillary Clinton and 1,123 for Bernie Sanders.
–The uncontested Borough Council race had 2,023 voting for Phil George and 2,022 for Jon Erickson
For an in depth look at all of New Jersey’s races, please see http://njspotlight.com
Highland Park residents have no local primary contests that would inspire them to vote on Tuesday, June 7. Voters, however, probably have heard about the national political brouhaha that may lead a healthy primary turnout among local voters.
Democrats Phil George and Jon Erickson are running unopposed for Highland Park Borough Council, as is Republican Herbert Gross. Neither the Republican nor Democratic Middlesex County Freeholder candidates have any opposition. There are, however, two Republicans, Peter Pisar and David Pawski, running to be the Republican candidate for Middlesex County Sheriff.
New Jersey’s 6th Congressional district contains parts of Middlesex and Monmouth counties. Historically a blue area, its representative is Democrat Frank Pallone, Jr., who has served in Congress since 1987. Neither Congressman Pallone nor Republican Brent Sonnek-Schmelz has a primary challenger. The Democratic voter plurality has made this a blue district. (NJSpotlight.com, 27 May 2016)
All the attention paid to this year’s presidential race has led to a record high number of people registering to vote in a New Jersey primary.The most recent voter registration data, posted in May by the state Division of Elections, counts more than 5.5 million people registered to vote as of April 30. And that number could go higher before the state’s June 7 primary. Even without any last-minute registrants, the state’s voter rolls are almost 45,000 larger than the previous high of 5.46 million in May 2013, when the governor’s seat was atop the June primary ballot.
Patrick Murray, founding director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said New Jersey’s increase is mirroring what has been happening across the country.
The candidacy of Republican Donald Trump, who has essentially locked up his party’s nomination, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ continuing effort to deny the Democratic nomination to former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have piqued the interest of the electorate. Gov. Chris Christie’s brief time in that race had also caught the attention of New Jerseyans.
New Jersey is considered more blue state than red, despite Christie’s governorship, but a little less than a third of those registered are Democrats. Still, ‘D’s outnumber ‘R’s, less than 20 percent of the electorate, by about 700,000 voters. Those voters who have not affiliated with either party, nearly 2.7 million, nearly match the two major parties combined.
According to the state’s primary rules, a person must be a member of one of the two major parties to vote for its candidates. Unaffiliated voters can declare a party and vote on Election Day, but few usually do so. That means that, as a practical matter, 2.8 million voters at most are likely to cast primary ballots.
Still, turnout has been dropping steadily. If recent history repeats itself, little more than two of every 10 Democrats and Republicans will go to the polls.
“Because both the Democrat and Republican presidential primary races are largely decided, I’m not sure we will see a huge surge over 2012’s primary numbers,” said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University, “though the Sanders campaign …still … fighting in early June … could motivate some folks to get more involved.”
Even if the voting percentage does not rise, the numbers that vote may increase because more are registered. Total registration was higher at the end of April than in 2012, the last presidential election year, in all but four counties — Camden, Cumberland, Hudson and Sussex. It rose the most in Warren County, by 11 percent, and in Essex, by 10.1 percent.( NJSpotlight.com 6 May 2016)