NJ midterm elections: What to know about early voting, how to register

COLLEEN O'DEA, SENIOR WRITER AND PROJECTS EDITOR | SEPTEMBER 23, 2022 

NJ Spotlight News

Oct. 23, 2021: On the first day of early in-person voting in New Jersey, voters in Clinton checked in on electronic poll books.

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Election Day is still six weeks away, but voting is about to start in New Jersey, as county clerks are set to start sending mail-in ballots to some 900,000 voters, who can return them immediately.

Saturday is the day when counties must begin mailing the paper ballots, which have become more popular as a form of voting in recent years. Roughly 900,000 people, or about 15% of all those registered, get a mail-in ballot automatically for every election. Others can ask to receive a ballot for this election or for all future elections by filling out a form and returning it to their county clerk.

Topping the ballot in this year’s elections are the state’s 12 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Democrats control 10 of those seats. But in a midterm election, the president’s party typically loses congressional seats. And after redistricting changed all the districts at least somewhat to account for population changes, Republicans could pick up one or more seats.

Now as people are set to start voting, others are registering. This week, a number of organizations and colleges, in particular, observed National Voter Registration Day with events throughout the state. Although New Jersey has automatic voter registration through state motor vehicles agencies, many eligible adults are not registered to vote and registration drives help bring more people into the process, particularly young people.

“We do know that New Jersey has seen stronger youth voter turnout and registration in recent years than we had in the past,” said Alicia D’Alessandro, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Tahesha Way.

Looking for younger voters

Each year, the Ballot Bowl competition, which this year involves 27 colleges and universities trying to register the most voters, draws “thousands of college students who wouldn’t sign up but for their peers asking them to,” D’Alessandro added.

In addition to students, anecdotal evidence suggests that more women are registering, elections officials say, although the state does not keep track of voter registration by gender. June’s U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the right to abortion nationwide is seen as one major reason why.

“Voters, particularly women and young voters, have indicated at voter registration tables that they are motivated to vote because of reproductive rights,” said Jesse Burns, executive director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. “We are also hearing a lot of people say they are motivated because of threats to voting rights.”

New Jerseyans have a number of other ways to register, including by visiting the county clerk’s office and filling out a form or using the state’s online form.

D’Alessandro said that New Jersey’s membership in the national Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), which should be fully implemented early next year, will also help target people who are eligible to vote but not yet registered. Many county officials and lawmakers had been calling for the state to join ERIC to help better maintain the voter rolls. Because states share information through the center, it makes it easier to find people who have moved out of state. But it also provides a way to reach out to people who have moved into the state and give them the option to register.

“It also allows us to identify every person in New Jersey who is eligible to be a voter and is not currently registered,” she said. “It will facilitate our outreach to those folks to say, ‘Hey, did you know you could be a New Jersey voter if you want it to be?’”

Forget about same-day registration?

One avenue not likely to be open soon to New Jersey residents is same-day voter registration. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 21 states and the District of Columbia allow people to register through Election Day and vote in that election. Montana and North Carolina allow people to register and vote on the same day during early voting periods, but not on Election Day itself.

A number of organizations have been pushing for same-day registration in New Jersey for years, but the measure has never reached the governor’s desk. Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) opposes the bill, saying he sees no need for it and that it could hurt candidates’ ability to reach potential voters.

Democrats continue to outnumber Republicans on New Jersey’s voter rolls by more than 1 million, according to the September voter registration update. According to the data, almost four of 10 registered voters are Democrats, outnumbering Republicans, who account for about one in five; unaffiliated voters make up 36%.

The last day to register to vote in this year’s general election in New Jersey is Oct. 18, with county offices staying open late.

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-09-23 02:56:00 -0700