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NJ's 2021 gubernatorial race still too close to call

New Jersey's next governor will likely be either incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) or Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli. – Photo by Matan Dubnikov, Jack Ciattarelli / Twitter

New Jersey's 2021 gubernatorial race, which took place yesterday, is still too close to call as of 7:30 a.m. today.

With approximately 88 percent of results in, the race is split between incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), who has 49.6 percent of the vote, and Jack Ciattarelli, his Republican challenger and former state Assemblyman, who has nearly 49.7 percent, according to The New York Times.

The three independent candidates, Madelyn Hoffman, Gregg Mele and Joanne Kuniansky, have less than 1 percent of the vote each.

While last year’s elections were primarily completed via mail-in ballots, this year’s were held through a mixture of in-person and mail-in voting, with New Jersey also offering early in-person voting for the first time, according to an article from NJ Advance Media

Approximately 3.2 percent of registered voters, or 207,863 individuals, cast their ballots at 1 of the 139 centralized early voting locations over a nine-day period leading up to Election Day. 

The state also received approximately 495,000 votes by mail as of Sunday, though additional mail-in ballots will be counted until this upcoming Monday so long as they are postmarked by 8 p.m. yesterday.

A number of polling locations throughout the state faced issues with the new electronic poll books, which were used in place of paper ones for the first time in some counties, resulting in long lines in certain places and some voters being turned away, according to an article from NJ Advance Media.

The electronic system, which updates the state voter database in real-time, was implemented due to the state’s allowance of early voting this year, according to the article. It was created to electronically record eligible voters for each location and prevent individuals from voting in multiple locations or on different days.

Though, some election workers had difficulties connecting the electronic poll books to the state database, among several other issues. 

In Bernardsville, new machines for District 7 did not work and voters were turned away, according to the article. Additionally, in Hillsborough, individuals waiting in line allegedly wound up walking away and at the Christopher Hope Community Center in Paterson, voters were not able to cast their ballots until an hour after polls were supposed to open at 6 a.m.

In Middlesex County, several towns including South Plainfield, Old Bridge, South River, Monroe and Edison reportedly faced similar issues, with South Plainfield having 13 of 15 polling districts unable to operate for several hours yesterday morning, according to an article from My Central Jersey.

Operational issues in these polling locations were reported to the Board of Elections upon the opening of the polls at 6 a.m., with the connectivity issues largely being resolved and provisional ballots being distributed as a backup method. Additionally, those who experienced issues in the morning that kept them from voting were encouraged to return.

Alicia D’Alessandro, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Division of Elections, said they were made aware of a small number of isolated problems, with most of the state’s approximately 3,400 polling locations reporting no issues, according to an article from NJ Advance Media.

Due to the issues that did occur, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and the League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit in Mercer County Superior Court yesterday in an attempt to keep polls open until 9:30 p.m., according to an article from NJ Advance Media

“By failing to provide a meaningful process to allow those New Jerseyans to vote who were previously prevented from casting their ballots due to technical issues, defendants are depriving potentially hundreds of New Jerseyans of the fundamental right to vote,” they said.

Though, a judge denied the request late yesterday, stating that the evidence presented did not suggest that anyone was denied the right to vote. The judge said the impact of keeping the polls open would also cause disarray and potentially put the integrity of the election in question, according to an article from NJ Advance Media.

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