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2021 NJ gubernatorial election voter turnout among lowest for governor races in past century

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) won reelection by only 3.2 percent, with fewer Democrats voting in certain counties than in the previous New Jersey governor race despite the availability of early voting and mail-in ballots. – Photo by Olivia Thiel

This year's New Jersey gubernatorial election had one of the lowest voter turnouts in the past century among governor races, with only 40 percent of the eligible population voting, according to an article from NJ Advance Media.

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) won reelection against Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli by just 3.2 percent out of more than 2.6 million voters, with 1,339,471 votes to Ciattarelli’s 1,255,185, according to the article.

In general, voter participation in gubernatorial elections has declined over the past century, according to the article. While more than 872,000 voters have registered in New Jersey since the previous gubernatorial election, the gap between the number of registered voters and the number of votes cast has been increasing, despite the availability of early voting and mail-in ballots.

Micah Rasmussen, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics, said that if this trend continues, future elections will be determined by increasingly smaller margins, according to the article.

“So what I’m really starting to pay attention to is, are 300,000 more Republican voters turning out in New Jersey elections than in previous elections?” Rasmussen said. “If that’s the case, we’re all going to have to adjust our expectations accordingly because we’re going to have more competitive elections.”

The state has 1.5 million registered Republicans, 2.5 million registered Democrats and 2.4 million unaffiliated voters as of Nov. 1, according to the article.

Ocean, Monmouth, Hunterdon and Cape May counties, which have a majority of registered Republicans, saw the highest turnout and an increase in votes compared to the 2017 New Jersey gubernatorial election, according to the article.

On the other hand, several counties with more registered Democrats  —  Hudson, Mercer, Bergen and Essex  — saw a lower turnout than last time.

Ciattarelli secured 11 counties to Murphy’s 10, and Rasmussen said many unaffiliated voters may have voted for the Republican side, which made the election closer than anticipated, according to the article.

“If Republicans can continue to do that, then they are going to see increased fortunes in the polls, and the question going forward is can Democrats stem that tide?” he said. “Can they make it so this is a one-year blip on the screen, or is this going to be a new trend going forward, where more Republicans are going to be voting statewide?”

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