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Motivated Democrats drive up turnout for July 7 primary

Motivated Democrats drive up turnout for July 7 primary


On July 7th, voters bring in their last minute ballots to the Board of Elections drop box in the lobby of the Old Courthouse in Mays Landing. Egg Harbor City resident Brittany Polanka takes a picture with her phone of her ballot as it enters into the box.

The hotly contested Democratic primary in the 2nd Congressional District — unofficially won by Brigantine’s Amy Kennedy — coupled with the ease of voting by mail, seemed to have dramatically driven up voter turnout in the July 7 primary election in South Jersey.

The 2nd District is on pace to have 68,000 Democratic votes cast, said John Froonjian, executive director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University. That’s more than double the 29,658 votes on the Democratic side in the last contested primary in 2018, he said.

Froonjian stressed that is a projection based on news reports and incomplete reporting by county boards of election so far.

Patterns were similar in many parts of the district, which covers all of Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Salem counties and parts of Gloucester, Ocean, Burlington and Camden counties.

The deadline for certifying results is Friday, but the state is allowing county boards of election to request extensions due to the overwhelming numbers of paper ballots they have had to process, said Atlantic County Board of Elections Chair Lynn Caterson.

She said Atlantic County expects to certify on time Friday.

With all vote-by-mail and provisional ballots counted in Atlantic County, Democrats cast 30,457 of 49,251 primary ballots, according to the Board of Elections.

That’s a turnout of 44% for Atlantic County Democrats compared with 36% for the county’s Republicans.

While incumbent U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd, had a Republican challenger in Ocean City’s Bob Patterson, party support was solidly behind Van Drew, so the race did not draw much attention.

Kennedy is now the likely nominee to challenge Van Drew in November. Elected as a Democrat, Van Drew’s change of party to Republican after voting against impeaching President Donald J. Trump led many Democrats to double down on their involvement this year, vowing to unseat him.

In 2018, when there were hard-fought primary races on both the Democratic and Republican sides for the seat left open by Rep. Frank LoBiondo’s retirement, fewer than half as many people in Atlantic County participated, state data show. Only 23,416 ballots were cast in Atlantic County in that primary.

“The electorate is very enthusiastic about expressing themselves,” Froonjian said. “Things could really change that would inflame passions even more. Say between now and November we have a Supreme Court seat open. That could be the thing that riles up the Republican base and gets them voting.”

In Salem County, Democratic turnout was 46% compared with 41% for Republicans.

Even in Ocean County, where there was also a hard-fought Republican primary in the 3rd Congressional District, turnout was higher on the Democratic side — 47% to 40%.

“I would say New Jersey Democrats are on pace to cast 1.1 million votes,” Froonjian said. “In 2016, when (Hillary) Clinton and (Bernie) Sanders were still sniping ... there were just under 900,000 (Democratic votes) cast.”

District 1, covering Camden County and parts of Burlington and Gloucester counties, is likely to have tallied almost 60,000 Democratic votes in the primary, even though incumbent Rep. Donald Norcross has no challenger.

“In 2018, there were about 47,000 cast (in the primary), and Norcross had a challenger,” Froonjian said. “So something’s going on.”

Caterson said her office has sent out 615 “cure letters” to people whose signatures on their ballots did not match their signatures on record, or who forgot to sign ballots. Voters have until the close of business Thursday to sign and return a certification that the ballot is theirs.

If the proper paperwork is provided, those ballots will be added to the count, Caterson said.

The cure letter return date was set by a court order and did not leave enough time for many people who are just getting cure letters to return the papers. The board sent them out as late as Tuesday for provisional votes reviewed Monday night.

The responses may be faxed or emailed or dropped off in person.

In the 2nd District Democratic primary, Kennedy’s main opponents, Longport’s Brigid Callahan Harrison and Vineland’s Will Cunningham, conceded on Election Night. Updated preliminary results show Kennedy with more than 60% of the vote district-wide. In Atlantic County, Kennedy got almost 75% of the vote.

The 3rd District race on the Republican side was between Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs, who got just 21.5% of the vote in Ocean County, and businessman David Richter, who won with almost 78% in the county.

Richter had started to run in the 2nd District but was encouraged to withdraw by national Republican leaders once Van Drew changed parties. So he ran in the 3rd instead.

Richter will likely face freshman incumbent Rep. Andy Kim, D-3rd, in November.

NJ Primary Results 2020 as of July 13

As of 4:30 p.m. on July 13, 31,625 of an estimated 45,000 ballots cast in the July 7 primary had been counted in Atlantic County. Atlantic County numbers are updated to July 13, but not other counties.

County Race Candidate Party Votes
Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small D 3,326
Atlantic City Mayor Pamela Thomas-Fields D 1,627
Atlantic City Mayor James Whitehead D 243
Atlantic City Mayor Thomas Forkin R 403
Atlantic County Sheriff Eric Scheffler D 15,985
Atlantic County Sheriff Joseph O'Donoghue R 11,029
Atlantic County Surrogate Stephen Dicht D 12,991
Atlantic County Surrogate Levi Fox D 2,877
Atlantic County Surrogate James Curcio R 11,174
Atlantic County Freeholder Caren Fitzpatrick D 15,660
Atlantic County Freeholder Celeste Fernandez D 15,701
Atlantic County Freeholder John Risley Jr R 11,213
Atlantic County Freeholder James Toto R 10,876
Atlantic County Freholder D3 Andrew Parker R 2,187
Atlantic County Freholder D3 Thelma Witherspoon D 3,184
Barnegat Township Township Committee Alfonso Cirulli R 1,668
Barnegat Township Township Committee Joseph Marte R 1,662
Barnegat Township Township Committee Charles Cunliffe D 1,644
Barnegat Township Township Committee Peggy Houle D 1,691
Cape May County Freeholder Elizabeth Casey D 5,504
Cape May County Freeholder Brendan Sciarra D 5,285
Cape May County Freeholder Will Morey R 6,624
Cape May County Freeholder Jeffrey Pierson R 6,535
Lacey Township Township Committee Nicholas Juliano R 1,980
Lacey Township Township Committee Bill Stemmle D 1,286
Lakewood Township Committee Michael D’Elia R 4,805
Lakewood Township Committee Hector Fuentes R 4,632
Lakewood Township Committee Harold Herskowitz R 1,391
Lakewood Township Committee Ray Coles D 2,110
Lakewood Township Committee Mordy Gross D 1,977
Little Egg Harbor Township Committee Ray Gormley R 1,632
Little Egg Harbor Township Committee John Kehm R 1,603
Little Egg Harbor Township Committee Gabriel Franco D 1,273
Little Egg Harbor Township Committee Shaun Moran D 1,264
Lower Township Mayor Christopher South D 1,323
Lower Township Mayor Frank Sippel R 1,455
Middle Township Township Committee Bob Jackson D 987
Middle Township Township Committee Timothy Donohue R 1,091
Ocean County County Clerk Scott Colabella R 39,146
Ocean County County Clerk Kathy Russell D 31,413
Ocean County Freeholder Joe Vicari R 38,731
Ocean County Freeholder Helen Dela Cruz D 31,398
Ocean Township Township Committee Ken Baulderstone R 1,019
Ocean Township Township Committee Rita Kopacz D 567

Contact: 609-272-7219

Twitter @MichelleBPost

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Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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