Last month’s elections continued what has become a striking trend in New Jersey recently: People are voting at historically low rates. Though U.S. Sen. Cory Booker — a nationally known politician — won his first full term in Washington and all 12 of the state’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives were up for grabs, only 36 percent of New Jersey’s registered voters cast ballots in November’s midterm elections. It was the lowest voter turnout for a regularly scheduled federal election in state history. In fact, each of New Jersey’s last seven statewide elections have set some kind of record for low turnout — a stretch of voter apathy that experts blame partly on citizens being frustrated with partisan bickering and campaign finance issues. “I think people are fed up with government,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “How do you expect people to go out and vote for an institution in which about one in 10 have any faith in?” Experts say other factors play a part, as well: the state’s lack of competitive races, the schedule of its elections, and the method in which New Jersey votes. And the numbers are unlikely to improve next November, they add.
The Garden State’s totals this year mirrored a national trend. Only 36 percent of eligible voters cast ballots across the U.S. — the lowest turnout since 1942, when a mere 34 percent voted in an election held the first full year the nation fought in World War II, according to numbers from the United States Election Project, a group that measures vote totals.
Eligible voters include both registered voters and those who are old enough to vote but aren’t registered. By that measure, New Jersey’s turnout this year was even lower, at about 31 percent — making it one of 12 states that saw less than a third of its eligible voters cast ballots.
“New Jersey is a microcosm of what was happening in some of the largest states in the country,” said Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida who runs the Election Project.