The Press of Atlantic City is working to keep readers in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties informed with up-to-date information on the 2020 general election, breaking news and continuous coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Jersey voters approve legalizing marijuana and lean toward tax breaks for veterans
New Jersey voters approved legalizing marijuana in the state and a measure that would expand the pool of veterans eligible for property tax deductions.
Another question that would delay redistricting until census figures are completed for the state was leaning toward approval.
With 3,680 of 6,348 precincts reporting, or 58% percent, voters were in favor of legalizing marijuana by an overwhelming margin. In all, 1,593,808 voters were in favor, with 776,228 opposed, according to data reported by The Associated Press as of 10:15 p.m.
The voting wasn’t a huge surprise — pre-election polls showed roughly 60% of New Jersey voters supported legalization. Gov. Phil Murphy and the Democratic-controlled Legislature have also thrown their support to the change.
The measure puts the state commission overseeing the medical marijuana program in charge of creating a recreational-use market. Along with an age restriction, cannabis would be subject to the state’s 6.625% sales tax, as well as allowing municipalities to levy an additional 2% tax.
The vote to extend tax breaks to veterans who didn’t serve during wartime was garnering even greater support, with 1,783,987, or 77% of the votes cast in favor as of 10:15 p.m., compared to 547,379 no votes.
The Office of Legislative Services estimated that about 53,274 peacetime veterans would qualify for the $250 annual tax deduction, costing the state about $13.6 million in the program’s first year.
Another 6,781 totally disabled peacetime veterans are estimated to live in New Jersey, with about 4,340 paying property taxes, according to the OLS. If each paid the average property tax bill of $8,767, the program would have a $38 million price tag.
A closer contest was the question on whether to delay legislative redistricting if the U.S. Census is late with its data — 1,340,049 (60%) of the votes tallied as of 10:15 p.m. supported the delay, while 903,745 (40%) did not.
Small leads Forkin in AC Mayor's race
Early results indicating Margate voters do not want a new beachfront boardwalk
Early results Tuesday night indicated that city residents do not want a beachfront boardwalk.
With more votes to be counted, residents voted 2,110-989 against the boardwalk as of late election night. Supporters of the plan had said the boardwalk would increase security in the city and give emergency vehicles better access to the beach.
In August, City Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution that placed a question on whether to build a new beachfront boardwalk on the general election ballot.
Atlantic County Board of Election announces that they will not release any more vote totals tonight
Democrat Cory Booker wins reelection to U.S. Senate from New Jersey.
Atlantic County Board of Elections has received 120,000 vote-by-mail ballots
Atlantic County Board of Elections chair Lynn Caterson said the board had received in excess of 120,000 vote-by-mail ballots by Tuesday afternoon, not counting the ballots that were dropped off at polling places throughout the county. The board had counted about 111,000, she said. In the last presidential election in 2016, 119,000 ballots were cast in total.
Cape May County expects record turnout
Cape May County Clerk Rita Fulginiti said the 2020 election will break turnout records.
Voting has gone smoothly in Cape May County, reports County Clerk Rita Fulginiti. 2020 looks likely to see record-breaking election turnout, with 69% of registered voters returning their ballots before Tuesday. After weeks of frantic work, today is relatively quiet for her team. pic.twitter.com/JOjXN714Gm
Cape May County will have a significant portion of the votes counted by Tuesday night, according to Arthur “Stig” Blomkvest, the chairman of the county Board of Elections.
Close to 50,000 mail-in ballots had been returned by election day, he said, and voters can continue to drop off ballots at secured locations until the polls close at 8 p.m.
In January Trump visited Wildwood, on election day the resort had a different look
Wildwood was quiet and somber Tuesday afternoon with very few people walking the boardwalk and even fewer bars and restaurants open.
It is the off season after all.
But this past January the city was bustling with people, about 15,000 to be exact, when President Trump held a rally at the Wildwoods Convention Center after Congressman Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd, switched political parties from Democrat to Republican and pledged his support for the president.
“We had a lot of foot traffic and the town was very upbeat,” Scott Chambers, owner of Zippy’s Bikes on Pacific Avenue, said of when Trump visited. “It was a great event in the offseason for that time of year. Usually everybody is closed up, it’s dark, there’s nothing going on.
“It’s always good to have the President of the United States visit your town,” he said. “It puts you on the map.”
He had heard that a lot of people who came to town for the rally ended up buying property. He’s unsure if Trump visiting the seaside town swayed voters in his favor, adding that Cape May County is predominately Republican, but a political item he sells in his store may say otherwise.
During the 2016 presidential election, Trump carried Wildwood City by a 860 to 779 margin.
Towards the back of his store were Trump pins for sale. There were no Biden pins, he said, because they were sold out.
And even though Election Day finally came, he doubted that Americans would see election results by Tuesday night.
“This isn’t about New Jersey, this isn’t about Cape May County,” he said. “There’s 50 other states reporting (election results).”
And whether the country sees results Tuesday night or later this week, he’s looking forward to the end of election season.
“I think people have had enough of this overwhelming experience,” he said. “I’m looking forward to moving forward.”
Election officials have received mail-in ballots from over half of registered South Jersey voters
Over half of registered voters in South Jersey have turned in mail-in ballots, according to reports.
Officials have received mail-in ballots from just over 63% of registered voters in Atlantic County, while Cape May and Cumberland counties are at 68% and 53%, respectively, according to state data.
Here's NJ turnout by county as of 10 a.m. Sorry, but the state isn't providing the partisan breakdown by itself and I don't have the right software to run the massive data file. pic.twitter.com/q8QQnzHFgn
Follow The Press of Atlantic City staff as they go to polls
Staff at The Press of Atlantic City will be around South Jersey throughout the day Tuesday to talk to voters about the election.
Tom Forkin, Rep. candidate for #AtlanticCity mayor, says he feels "cautiously optimistic" today. Said with political operative C. Callaway working on behalf of US Rep. JVD in CD2, Forkin thinks a good number of usual Dem voters will vote for him.#Election2020
Over 3.5 million New Jerseyans have already voted – over 88% of total turnout 2016, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.
Atlantic County had received 102,461 ballots, and 85,332 had been counted, as of late Thursday, according to the Board of Elections.
Cape May County Clerk Rita Fulginiti expects a record-breaking number of votes in this year's election. As of the end of Friday, 63% of the mail-in ballots sent out this year had been returned. Voters can still drop their ballots off at polling places tomorrow 6 a.m. to 8 p.m..
Registered voters will receive a postcard in the mail stating their polling place. The information also is available on your county clerk or board of elections websites. You can also visit, voter.svrs.nj.gov/polling-place-search
Huge voter turnout expected despite virus, political rancor
The scourge of a global pandemic produced an election season like no other in the U.S., persuading record numbers of Americans to cast their ballots early, forcing states to make changes to long-established election procedures and leading to hundreds of lawsuits over how votes will be cast and which ballots will be counted.
Polls began opening Tuesday as election officials warned that millions of absentee ballots could slow the tallies, perhaps for days, in some key battleground states and as President Donald Trump threatened legal action to prevent ballots from being counted after Election Day.
Amid the tumult, tens of millions of Americans heeded warnings to act early, prompted by concerns over Postal Service delays and worries about the virus spreading through crowded polling places.
“Come hell or high water,” said Kristen Clarke, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “It feels like that has been the attitude voters have needed to make sure their voices are heard this year.”
At least 98.8 million people voted before Election Day, about 71 percent of the nearly 139 million ballots cast during the 2016 presidential election, according to data collected by The Associated Press. Given that a few states, including Texas, had already exceeded their total 2016 vote count, experts were predicting record turnout this year.
Those yet to vote headed to polling places on Tuesday despite another spike in COVID-19 cases that has hit much of the country. Democrat Joe Biden’s campaign had emphasized early voting due to the pandemic. Among those braving the polls were voters who may have wanted to vote by mail but waited too long to request a ballot or those who didn’t receive their ballots in time.
Others were likely persuaded by the president’s rhetoric attacking mail voting or simply preferred to vote in person. With Democrats dominating the early vote, Republicans were expected to comprise a large share of Tuesday's voting.
In the months leading up to Election Day, election officials had to deal with a pandemic that has infected more than 9 million Americans and killed more than 230,000, forcing them to make systemic changes largely on the fly and mostly without federal money. Meanwhile, Trump repeatedly sought to undermine the election with unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud.
He has particularly targeted the crucial battleground state of Pennsylvania, after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed — at least for now — a three-day extension for receiving and counting absentee ballots. Over the weekend, Trump said that as soon as the polls close there on Tuesday, “We're going in with our lawyers.”
Misinformation about election procedures, concerns about confrontations at the polls and reports of mail slowdowns also clouded the run-up to Election Day.
“The eyes of the American public and the world are on election officials as we administer free and fair elections during this unprecedented time,” said New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who also is president of the National Association of Secretaries of State. “Rest assured, we are ready. We have coordinated with all levels of government and are in constant communication to ensure a smooth election.”
The group has been working with the National Association of State Election Directors to help states hammer out plans for protecting against foreign and domestic cyberattacks, countering misinformation and strengthening an election infrastructure tested by massive early voting and pandemic precautions.
Election officials across some 10,000 voting jurisdictions scrambled to purchase personal-protective equipment, find larger polling places, replace veteran poll workers who opted to sit out this year’s election due to health concerns and add temporary workers to deal with the avalanche of mail ballots.
Most states, even ones with broad mask mandates, stopped short of forcing voters to wear them at the polls. Instead, they urged voters to don masks while providing options for those who refused.
“Ten thousand election officials, locals to every community in the country, have shifted on a dime and planned this election in record time and are working very hard to count every legitimate ballot,” said Noah Praetz, a former election official in Illinois who has been helping election offices adapt their processes this year. “They are catching rare incidents of bad behavior, and they are ensuring the integrity of this election.”
Given the last-minute changes and decentralized nature of U.S. elections, problems were expected. In every election, equipment malfunctions, polling places open late and lines can get long, particularly in urban areas.
On Tuesday, lines will be extended by social-distancing rules and could get worse if large numbers of voters who requested a mail ballot show up at the polls after deciding they would rather vote in person.
In some states, those voters will be required to cast a provisional ballot — one that ultimately will be counted if the voter is eligible and did not previously vote. But this also triggers a lengthier check-in process, leading to delays. Millions of absentee ballots were still outstanding as of Monday, including 1.3 million in Florida and 700,000 in Pennsylvania.
Election officials have emphasized that while long lines are not acceptable, it does not mean there has been any sort of widespread failure. They also warned that isolated incidents of voter intimidation were possible given the level of political rancor this year, but that safeguards are in place and voters should not be concerned about casting a ballot in person.
“There is a lot to be angry about and to fix after Election Day,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “But despite those unprecedented strains, the system was able to pull it together and accommodate this incredible surge in voting. That required a lot of ingenuity, commitment to democracy and hard work, especially by our election officials.”
——— Cassidy reported from Atlanta and Izaguirre from Lindenhurst, N.Y. Associated Press writers Nicholas Riccardi in Denver and Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.
Associated Press coverage of voting rights receives support in part from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The AP is solely responsible for this content.
Civil unrest during Election Day? No issues so far, South Jersey police say
South Jersey law enforcement officials prepared for possible civil unrest on Election Day, but as of Tuesday morning, there haven’t been any issues.
Just before 9 a.m., Atlantic City police Lt. Kevin Fair and Pleasantville police Chief Sean Riggin both said there have been no issues so far.
Several businesses in Atlantic City, particularly at Tanger Outlets the Walk, were boarded up over the weekend, prepared for any civil unrest related to the election.
According to the Associated Press:
Federal authorities are monitoring voting and any threats to the election across the country at an operations center just outside Washington, D.C., run by the cyber-security component of the Department of Homeland Security. Officials there said there were no major problems detected early Tuesday but urged the public to be wary and patient.
U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency director Christopher Krebs said from the center there was "some early indication of system disruption,” but he did not elaborate. He says he has "confidence that the vote is secure, the count is secure and the results will be secure.”
Krebs says officials have seen attempts by foreign actors "to interfere in the 2020 election.” But he says officials “have addressed those threats quickly" and "comprehensively.”
Krebs says Election Day “in some sense is half-time.” He says, “There may be other events or activities or efforts to interfere and undermine confidence in the election.” He asks all Americans "to treat all sensational and unverified claims with skepticism and remember technology sometimes fails.”
Election Day — more like election deadline — arrives in NJ
TRENTON, N.J (AP) — Election Day this year marks the end, not the start, of voting across New Jersey as voters decide on the president, Senate, House and whether to legalize recreational marijuana.
That’s because New Jersey is holding its first mostly mail-in election — state official's response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
More than 3.5 million voters have already returned their ballots to county officials, state election authorities have said. That’s 88% of 2016′s turnout.
The contest between Democrat Joe Biden and Republican President Donald Trump isn’t expected to be close, with Biden favored. Democratic Sen. Cory Booker is also in strong position over Republican challenger Rik Mehta.
The closest races appear to be for House seats. Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew is trying to win a second term against Democrat Amy Kennedy. Van Drew drew national attention in December when he left the Democratic Party for the GOP because he opposed impeaching Trump.
Also closely being watched are the 3rd District race, where freshman Democrat Andy Kim faces Republican David Richter, and the 7th District contest between Democratic freshman Rep. Tom Malinowski and Republican Tom Kean Jr.
Voters are also deciding whether to legalize cannabis for people 21 and over. Polls show about 60% of people support legalization. New Jersey would join the District of Columbia and 11 other states if voters approve the constitutional amendment.
Polls close at 8 p.m.
Tuesday’s election marks the first time New Jersey has ordered an almost entirely mail election.
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy cited the coronavirus outbreak when he first signed the order this summer. At the time, the state saw a decline in COVID-19 cases and was steadily reopening. Now the numbers are headed upward, and Murphy hasn’t announced plans to expand indoor dining, which stands at 25% capacity.
But facing a challenge from Trump and Republicans in U.S. District court claiming the order was a “usurpation” of the Legislature’s rights, he and the Democrat-led Senate and Assembly passed a law setting up the mail-in balloting.
Voters began receiving their ballots in late September and had several ways of casting them. They could return them through the mail, drop them in an official drop box, or take them to their polling place on Election Day. Each county had at least 10 drop boxes, though a number had many more.
It’s unclear how soon the votes might be tallied, but the same law that established this year’s mail-in vote also permitted county boards of elections to begin opening and counting ballots 10 days before Election Day.
Initial results of election might be skewed, according to reports
The Election Day votes this year in New Jersey will be paper provisional ballots that won’t even start being counted until Nov. 10, so there's a chance any initial returns will be skewed, according to NJ1015.
“Well, this is what I always say in every single election year, for voters to always be patient,” said Secretary of State Tahesha Way. “But of course, in this unprecedented time, it is certainly possible that the vote for various races may be known or may not be known on election night.”
EXPLAINER: Long lines to vote on Election Day aren't unusual
WASHINGTON (AP) — Long voting lines on Election Day aren’t unusual or necessarily a sign of that something nefarious is afoot.
They’re often the product of something as simple as heavier-than-expected turnout for an important election like Tuesday’s presidential, congressional and other races.
Long lines also develop when there aren’t enough voting machines — either because some have malfunctioned or there just aren't enough of them to comfortably manage the turnout — or when poll workers don't show up for their assignments, leading to understaffing.
This year, polling places are putting social distancing measures in place because of the coronavirus pandemic, with voters who are in line encouraged to keep at least 6 feet (1.83 meters) apart — automatically making for longer lines.
Long lines materialized in many counties in many states during the past few weeks of early in-person voting because the early turnout was so heavy.
Nearly 100 million Americans voted early.
One scenario that could complicate Tuesday's voting: voters who decide to show up at the polls after getting a ballot in the mail, or not receiving one they requested.
Voters with mailed ballots can change their minds and choose instead to vote in person. However, poll workers will have to take extra steps to make sure the person won't vote twice, which is illegal. The same applies to someone who shows up to vote, claiming not to have received a ballot.
Many such cases could contribute to long lines because of the time needed to resolve these and other issues.
On the flip side, the high number of people who have already voted early — whether in-person or by mail — could turn out to be a benefit on Tuesday.
“There is a good chance that the voting on Election Day may be kind of light if a high percentage of the vote is already in,” said Tom Verdin, AP's national editor for state government.
AP News Guide: A look at New Jersey's elections
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Millions in New Jersey have already cast their ballots in this year’s election, with Tuesday marking the deadline to vote for president, Senate, House and three ballot questions, including legalizing recreational marijuana.
The presidential race between Democrat Joe Biden and incumbent Republican Donald Trump isn’t expected to be close in New Jersey. The U.S. Senate contest between Democratic incumbent Cory Booker and his GOP challenger also doesn’t look close.
But a handful of House races look to be toss-ups, and the marijuana ballot question has national implications: If approved, New Jersey would become the 12th state, plus the District of Columbia, to legalize cannabis for recreational use.
This year’s election is unique because it’s being conducted mostly by mail-in ballots. Already more than 3.5 million people have sent in their ballots, according to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.
A closer look at this year’s most watched races:
No Republican has carried New Jersey since 1988. The state’s 14 electoral votes are viewed to be safely in Biden’s column. Still, New Jersey has strong pockets of support for Trump and is the home to three of his golf clubs. The club in Bedminster regularly hosts the president when he comes to the area. Trump announced that he was positive with COVID-19 just hours after attending a campaign fundraiser at the Bedminster club in October.
Booker is seeking his second full term after winning a special election in 2013 after the death of Frank Lautenberg.
Booker is the former mayor of Newark, the state’s biggest city. He is a well-recognized figure, whose failed run in the most recent Democratic presidential primary had him under the national spotlight for months.
Mehta is new to the game and is the founder of biopharmaceutical firms. He lives in traditionally Republican Morris County with his wife and three children, while Booker lives in the Democratic stronghold of Newark in Essex County, with his partner, actor Rosario Dawson.
Unlike six years ago, when Booker was running for his first full term, he has landmark legislation to highlight. He was a top sponsor of the First Step Act, which Trump signed in 2018. The criminal justice overhaul gave judges more discretion when sentencing some drug offenders. It also boosted prisoner rehabilitation efforts.
It’s something he’s put at the center of his reelection campaign, pointing to the bipartisan nature of the new law.
Mehta describes himself as “unapologetically” Republican and is a strong supporter of the president.
If victorious, Mehta, who is Indian American, would be the first person of Asian descent to win a Senate seat from New Jersey. He would also be the first Republican since Clifford Case in 1972 to win a Senate election in New Jersey.
MARIJUANA BALLOT QUESTION
Polls show roughly 60% support for the legalization of recreational marijuana. The governor and Democrat-led Legislature also support legalization.
If the measure is approved, the state commission overseeing the medical marijuana program would be in charge of setting up a recreational-use market. Along with an age restriction, cannabis would be subject to the state’s 6.625% sales tax.
The amendment also authorizes the Legislature to enact a law letting towns and cities collect a tax on cannabis of up to 2%.
It’s unclear, though, how soon after the amendment passes that marijuana could hit the market. Lawmakers are wrestling with whether to enact legislation before the public weighs in in order to speed up when the market can open.
HOUSE DISTRICT 2
This is perhaps the most closely watched race in the state. Incumbent Rep. Jeff Van Drew gained national attention when he abandoned the Democratic Party in December and became a Republican, saying he couldn’t support impeachment of the president. He pledged his “undying support” to Trump during an Oval Office meeting and in January hosted the president in Wildwood for a rally.
That was before the COVID-19 outbreak. Since then, Van Drew has been locked in a tight race against Democratic opponent Amy Kennedy, a former public school teacher. She’s also the spouse of former Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.
The southern New Jersey district encompasses all or part of eight counties and supported Trump in 2016, though it backed Democrat Barack Obama in his two presidential runs.
HOUSE DISTRICT 3
Democratic incumbent Andy Kim is running for his second term in the southern New Jersey district that stretches from the Philadelphia suburbs along the Delaware River in Burlington County to Ocean County.
He faces Republican former businessman David Richter. Richter originally planned to run against Van Drew. But when Van Drew became a Republican, Richter moved north to seek the 3rd District seat.
Richter, a retired Hill International executive, is a newcomer to politics.
HOUSE DISTRICT 7
Freshman Democrat Tom Malinowski faces Tom Kean Jr., the state Senate Republican Minority Leader and son of former GOP Gov. Tom Kean.
The 7th District includes parts of Essex, Morris, Somerset, Union and Warren counties, and all of Hunterdon.
The race has taken a negative turn, with Kean’s supporters airing ads claiming that Malinowski lobbied against a national sex offender registry. Malinowski explicitly denied the claim, which stems from his work as a lobbyist for Human Rights Watch. Republicans have pointed to lobbying records showing Malinowski’s name as a lobbyist on legislation, including the sex offender registry. But Malinowski covered foreign policy while at Human Rights Watch, he said, not domestic policy. The ads have led to Malinowski getting death threats, his office has said.
HOUSE DISTRICT 11
Mikie Sherrill, a Democrat and former prosecutor and Navy pilot, is running for her second term against Republican Rosemary Becchi, a former attorney for the Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee.
Northern New Jersey’s 11th District covers parts of Essex, Morris, Passaic and Sussex counties. It has the highest median income among the state’s congressional districts at $121,000, according to the Census.
OTHER HOUSE DISTRICTS
In the state's other eight House districts, Democrats are defending seven seats, while Republican Rep. Chris Smith is seeking his 21st term.
ATLANTIC CITY MAYOR
Marty Small, the Democratic incumbent, is running for the final year of his predecessor’s unexpired term. He is being challenged by Republican Tom Forkin. The winner will presumably run again next year for a full four-year term. It’s a time of upheaval in the seaside gambling resort, struggling with the coronavirus pandemic that has kept casinos restricted to 25% of capacity. The city also remains under state control under a takeover law approved by former Republican Gov. Chris Christie and the Democrat-controlled state Legislature.
My beat is public safety, following police and crime. I started in January 2018 here at the Press covering Egg Harbor and Galloway townships. Before that, I worked at the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pa., covering crime and writing obituaries.