Special New Jersey Senatorial Election Voter Turnout at All Time Low

On Oct. 17, Democrat Cory Booker won the special election to be U.S Senator for New Jersey against Republican Steve Lonegan. They both ran for an aggressive two months to finish Sen. Frank Lautenberg term after he passed away while in office last June at age 89. Unfortunately, the turnout was extremely low for this election.

“Voter turnout in the special election was about 24 percent of registered voters. That’s the lowest turnout for a statewide election since at least 1920, which is as far back as state records go.

“That even includes elections in off-years when there is no statewide office, such as Governor or U.S. Senator on the ballot,” said Patrick Murray, Director of Monmouth University Polling Institute.

One reason to explain what happened during the special election is that many people were unaware of said election, according to Murray.

Murray continues, “Part of this had to do with the fact that New Jersey has never had a special election, let alone one that was so close to the regular election – and on a Wednesday to boot.

Monmouth University Polling Institute found that even among voters who almost always go out to vote, about 1-in-10 were still unaware of the special election just days before it occurred.”

Even though that is a simple way to explain the reason for such a low turnout, Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman would think otherwise.

The Democrat from Ewing Township, N.J., said “I think it was clearly pointed out in the low-voter turnout and the confusion that arose that this was nothing more than a ploy on the part of Governor Christie to suppress the vote.”

The special election increased the state’s election costs by $12 million, according to USA Today. Due to the date that Chrsite chose the vote was suppressed.

Watson-Coleman, chairwomen of Barbara Buono’s campaign, believed that Christie didn’t want to put extra Democrats on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Here at the University, there are some people that take their voting seriously. 

Dr. Michael Phillips- Anderson, associate professor of communication, says. “I have never missed voting in an election since I turned 18.”

Phillips-Anderson continued, “I really like to go even when I’m not sure my vote makes much difference. I think the reason it is important to vote is that, despite all the flaws, it is the best way to pick our leaders. People struggle for these rights and when we don’t vote we dishonor their sacrifices.”

“Voter participation goes down in non-presidential elections (like the one in New Jersey this year.) I think that makes it an even better time to vote since each vote counts for a larger share of the total.”

He continued, “When I lived in Washington, DC, I had no real voice in Congress (DC has no representation in the House or the Senate). Most of the 600,000+ people who live there would like a chance to select their leaders like everyone else,” Phillips-Anderson said.

Dr. Eleanor Novek, associate professor of communication, said, “Some people believe that there is little difference among candidates and they say it is not worth their time to vote. But I disagree. I think that even when we are not excited about the candidates, we need to inform ourselves about who would make the best choice and vote for them. And of course, we can run for office ourselves.”

“The highest responsibility an American has is to vote. If you want change in your government, all you have to do is vote for the change you want,” Emily Argano, freshman business administration major.

Argano continued, “That’s why you should go out and vote. For protection and security from your own government.”

The Governor’s election was held on Nov. 5.

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