PJ BLOGGER

Low turnout expected for Tuesday’s NJ primary

In Uncategorized on June 3, 2008 at 3:57 pm

By GEOFF MULVIHILL

Associated Press Writer

June 1, 2008

MOORESTOWN, N.J.

By moving its presidential primary to February, New Jersey gained a bit of clout in picking candidates and drew a higher percentage of voters than any primary since 1940.

Now, for the downside: Because the presidential primary was moved up, voters don’t have as much incentive to turn out for Tuesday’s primary, which features a slate of candidates for U.S. Congress, county and local offices.

Political observers and campaign insiders expect a low voter turnout despite some intriguing intraparty races and an environment where politics is dominating the news.

They say many voters may be either worn out or confused by the higher-than-usual number of elections in New Jersey. In a handful of towns, it’s the fifth election since the beginning of the year.

Here’s one possible harbinger of turnout trouble: Some of the politically astute retirees who gathered for breakfast at the Heart to Heart Cafe in Moorestown on Friday were debating whether it would be worth voting in the primary.

They said they’re tired of voting and leery of politicians. Besides, some of the registered Republicans would like have a chance to cross party lines and support a Democrat _ something they can’t do under New Jersey’s primary rules.

And, a few admitted, they didn’t realize the primary was coming up until a few days earlier.

“The only reason you’d know there was a vote was that you got a sample ballot (in the mail),” said Rick Young, a retired heating oil distributor.

Some campaigns are preparing to spend more money than usual on election-day efforts to drum up votes. That means you should brace for a lot of last-minute phone calls reminding you that the vote is coming up.

Rutgers University political scientist Ingrid Reed says this year’s primary season reminds her of a primary eight years ago, when 17 percent of the electorate turned out.

“If we had that many this year, that would be good turnout,” she said.

Since 2000, about 1 in 10 of New Jersey’s registered voters have participated in June primaries.

This year’s presidential primary was different. New Jersey, like many states, moved up its voting to try to have more influence on the presidential nominations, and turnout was heavy at 35 percent _ the best turnout in New Jersey since 1940.

While the presidential primary brought out new voters, Reed said it’s largely the party loyalists who will show up Tuesday.

“This is more like an insider’s primary,” Reed said.

The Democratic State Committee is doing something it’s done before only for this year’s presidential primary: Mounting a campaign to remind its members when the election is.

The party, though, is not endorsing any of its candidates.

Democratic State Chairman Joe Cryan, who is also a state Assemblyman, said he expects the two big-spending U.S. Senate candidates, incumbent Frank Lautenberg and U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, to give extra attention on get-out-the-vote efforts. Cryan didn’t expect the same kind of push for the third candidate, Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello.

“There’s a lot more focus on election day as opposed to putting that extra TV ad up,” Cryan said.

He said those Election Day efforts will include paying people to direct voters to the polls.

Bill Caruso, a spokesman for Andrews, said the campaign will have workers on volunteers around the state on Tuesday.

Julie Roginsky, a spokeswoman for the Lautenberg campaign, said she wouldn’t divulge her candidate’s Election Day strategy. She predicted turnout might not be so bad _ thanks to the interest generated by the presidential primary between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. “We’ve got so many newly registered Democrats,” she said.

The Republican campaigns might not be able to do as much because the three candidates for U.S. Senate have raised far less than their Democratic counterparts. None of the three _ Joe Pennacchio, Murray Sabrin, or Dick Zimmer _ has been able to advertise heavily on television.

Republican State Committee Chairman Tom Wilson said that a big get-out-the-vote effort may not help lesser-known and lesser-funded candidates in his party.

“I don’t know whether Pennacchio or Sabrin would have the luxury of being able to say, ‘My message has been heard, now I’ve got to turn people out,”‘ he said.

Besides, he said, in primaries it can be tough to guess which partisans are on their side. “You can’t just turn people out randomly” and expect it to help, he said.

Wilson expects candidates in his party to focus on building name recognition until the end, and most campaigns are doing something to get voters to the polls. For instance, Pennacchio’s campaign has said it will have a phone bank set up to encourage supporters, while Sabrin has had a get-out-the-vote drive online.

With all the angst over primary turnout, there’s some renewed concern over whether the separate presidential election _ with a cost to the state of about $10.5 million this year _ is worth having again.

“I would say, keep it in June,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., a Democrat from Paterson. “You’ve got too many elections.”

___

On the Net: http://www.njelections.org

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  1. I received an email from the Rob Andrews Campaign imploring me to vote. Unfortunately for him, I and thousands of others received it on Wednesday.

  2. Politics as usual. The horse is out of the corral. Now close the gate.

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