Odd-year elections are disastrous for Democrats. So let’s do what Republicans would do. | Opinion

Published: Nov. 14, 2021

By Kabir Moss

Kabir Moss, a communications specialist with several Democratic campaigns, says that iIn an off-year election only the most concerned, agitated voters show up. In New Jersey that resulted in the Democrats barely holding on to the governorship and their majorities in both the Assembly and the Senate were reduced. Above, New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney concedes that he lost reelection to the state Senate.


New Jersey’s state-level politics has a voter participation problem and low voter turnout, as it does nearly everywhere in the country, hurts Democrats.

In Republican-controlled states like Texas and Georgia, Republicans have spent years passing laws to suppress the state’s vote, especially in their diverse, urban centers. Imagine the Republican celebration in Georgia if they had conducted an election that saw just 37% turnout and a depression of votes in nearly all communities of color. For Republicans, that’s a job well done. For New Jersey, one of the most diverse states in the nation, that’s a disgrace.

New Jersey is not a Republican stronghold. It’s not gerrymandered, it doesn’t have restrictive voter ID laws and hasn’t closed down polling locations in urban centers. It is, or at least it should be, a Democratic stronghold. We have dramatically expanded vote-by-mail, this year we had nearly two weeks of early voting, and New Jersey has over 1 million more registered Democrats than Republicans.

Unfortunately, the most significant tool for disenfranchisement has been baked into our constitution since the 1940s. In 1947, our constitution got a facelift and at the time, the Republican delegates were tired of running against local Democrats with a wildly popular top-of-the-ticket, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR had passed away a couple of years prior but they were determined not to let that happen again. So, under the guise of federalism and an independent state, the very white, very male delegation decided to hold statewide elections on odd years.

The principle being, local politicians shouldn’t have to compete with national ones.

What we have as a result, however, is a presidential election in 2020 that turned out 76% of the vote in New Jersey and a gubernatorial election in 2021 that turned out just 37% — one of the lowest turnouts in a century. In a perfect world, all voters are fully informed, engaged and motivated to show up to the polls, every year.

In the real world, it’s 2021 and people were just dragged through a multi-year presidential campaign with a constantly chaotic president (Trump) that was capped off by COVID-19 and an endless pandemic. The urgency to vote out Trump and to address the global crisis was met with real turnout and a big win for Democrats. But when your average voter finally felt like they could take a deep breath and turn off all the noise, the Democrats were turning right around and begging them to show back up, to maintain that urgency, stay engaged, keep volunteering, keep knocking on doors, and keep donating to the cause. That’s a tall task that is only getting taller.

In an off-year election only the most concerned, agitated voters show up. In New Jersey that resulted in the Democrats barely holding on to the governorship and their majorities in both the Assembly and the Senate were reduced.

Would a Republican-held state roll the dice like this if they had a million voter buffer? Would they keep a system that they knew, for a fact, makes it harder for them to win elections? Would they take their advantage and throw it out the window because a few white guys 70 years ago were intimidated by the popularity of the president?

Moving the election of our governor and Legislature would not be easy. It’s more technical than legalizing marijuana, so massive public support would be harder to build. Elected officials would have to vote on/sign a law that would reduce their terms down and force them to run for re-election sooner than expected. It would take real leadership and a long-term view, something often more evident in Republicans.

It would also certainly have some fierce opponents in the political industry, an industry I am also a part of since the continuous election cycle keeps us indefinitely employed. But I believe the more people show up to vote, the better off we are as a society and as a party, and I am tired of the Democrats across the country being steamrolled by Republicans who play politics on the ground while Democrats hold on to ideals, tradition and ceremony.

New Jersey Democrats shouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of our advantage, it’s what the Republicans would do.

Kabir Moss is the founder of Moss Media who most recently managed the communications for state Sen.-elect Gordon Johnson and Assemblywomen Shama Haider and Ellen Park. He previously was the deputy director of communications for the Senate Majority Office.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-11-15 03:49:06 -0800