With less than three weeks to go before a pandemic-era election, held mostly by mail, Democrats in New Jersey are returning to the polls at a rate faster than Republicans in some of the state’s most conservative strongholds.
In the rural north, on the Jersey coast, and in Horse Country, Democrats are hitting Republicans in the mailbox – and box – in an election where each voter sent a postal ballot to be delivered by Nov. 3.
In Ocean County, which hosts more Republicans than anywhere else in the state, nearly 39 percent of registered Democrats voted Wednesday, compared with 25 percent of Republicans, according to county records. Rural Sussex had an almost identical split: More than 39% of Democrats had returned ballots by Wednesday, compared with 24% of Republicans.
While many states have seen an increase in mail-order voting, New Jersey is one of four states where the rate of return has already lost 25% of the state’s turnout four years ago.
Polls, lawmakers and campaign advisers see it as a sign tension between Democrats willing to show their displeasure with a polarized president and a measure of distrust among Republicans about voting by mail – a method President Trump has been attacked, without evidence, as ripe for fraud.
Republican leaders say they expect an increase in in-person voting closer to Election Day.
“They are very suspicious of the post office,” said State Sen. Joseph Pennacchio, a Republican leader in New Jersey’s presidential re-election campaign who advises voters to use ballot boxes. “If you had a $ 100 bill, would you trust to put $ 100 in the mail? Of course not.”
Still, two years after a by-election that saw Democrats invert four of congressional political seats, political analysts say the mailing trend could indicate more problems for Republicans already struggling to maintain a foothold in an increasingly liberal state.
Before the representative Jeff Van Drew changed party In December, there was only one Republican representing New Jersey in Congress: Chris Smith, who is in his 20th term. Mr Van Drew, a vocal opponent of the president’s accusation, is now fighting for his political life against Amy Kennedy, a first-time candidate and former teacher who is married to a nephew of President John F. Kennedy.
But it is a contest between State Senator Tom Kean Jr. and spokesman Tom Malinowski – in an area that crosses a northern part of New Jersey – which many observers are watching more closely.
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Mr. Kean, a Republican, is the son of Thomas H. Kean, a respected former governor who led the investigation into the September 11 terrorist attacks; Mr Malinowski is a new Democrat elected in 2018 as part of the so-called blue wave aligned with Mr Trump.
Given Senator Kean’s name and family ties, the outcome of the fight – most likely rated as a “lean Democrat” by the Cook Political Report – is considered something of a test for the centrist Republicans.
“Is Tom Malinoski leafing through Cannes?” asked Patrick Murray, director of the University of Monmouth Polling Institute.
“And that means the Tom Kean Sr. brand. Is Republicanism Dead? ” he added.
State officials were required to send ballots to every registered voter in New Jersey no later than Oct. 5. In many parts of the state, election officials began casting ballots in mid-September, allowing voters to cast their ballots more than a month before Election Day by mail, or at a polling station or secure developing environment.
Mr Pennacchio said going to the polls was a game of political power by Democrats, dressed as a security pandemic.
“There is no reason in the world that New Jersey can not vote in person,” said Pennacchio, who noted that people still stand in lines inside shops and outside car offices. This week, Gov. Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat, also allowed it full contact winter sports like basketball and wrestling to get started in schools.
Mr. Pennacchio, a Brooklyn-born dentist and the only Democrat now helping lead the Republican Party in Morris County, called Mr. Trump a “poster boy for traditional values” who had not lost sight of his constituents.
“He may occasionally slaughter the King’s English, and God knows he makes a lot of tweets, but he has my back,” Mr Pennacchio said. “When he went to Washington, he took me with him.”
Crazy ballots offer only an early snapshot of voters’ response to the wider New Jersey mail-order voting test, and the numbers change every day.
But the rate of return has raised eyebrows among Republicans.
In Hunterdon County, Republicans control the county government and outnumber Democrats by about 13,000 voters. By the end of last week, however, 43% of registered Democrats had voted for him, compared to 25% for Republicans in a Malinowski county.
“He says there is real passion,” said Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican from Hunterson County and the only woman to be elected governor of New Jersey.
Ms. Whitman is a vocal opponent of Mr. Trump and leader of the Republicans and Independents for Biden, a group that has backed former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. for president.
If Mr. Trump loses, Ms. Whitman said, his supporters will be demoted to a party wing and centralists will begin to rebuild. If he wins, the task will be more difficult, he said, but not impossible.
“We have to work hard to get it back, but that does not mean it is dead,” Ms Whitman said of the party she liked. father and grandparents before her, once helped drive.
“We are not going to stop trying to give the American people a central party,” he added, “because most people are there.”
But New Jersey support for a Republican party revised in the image of Mr. Trump also appears in the full embrace of the President by Republicans who are locked in close congressional rallies in swinging areas and rallying for the presidency.
ONE campaign style An event in February with Mr. Trump in Wildwood, New York, attracted thousands of enthusiastic fans, many of whom endured cooling temperatures as they waited in line for two days. On Labor Day weekend, supporters of the president gathered from the shore for a flotilla that participants estimated they had taken out 2,400 boats.
In a TV talk Last week, Mr. Van Drew spoke closely about Mr. Trump’s positions on issues such as immigration, policing, and origin of the coronavirus, which, said Mr Van Drew, “probably came from a laboratory – we do not know if it was genetically modified”. U.S. scientists and intelligence services agree that the overwhelming probability is that the virus evolved in nature.
David Richter, a Republican running to overtake Andy Kim – a Democratic Congressman who scored a close victory to reverse the seat in 2018 – it was dismisses the president after he was removed from running in the second congressional district from Mr. Van Drew’s party. But now that he has rented a house in a neighboring neighborhood challenge Mr. Kim, his fundraising website claims to be “proud of President Trump.”
New Jersey is one of four states where the initial turnout is already more than 25 percent of its total participation in 2016, According to United States Election Program, an information center run by Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida.
Jesse Burns, executive director of the New Jersey non-partisan Women Voters Association, said she believed the vote increase was directly linked to the pandemic.
Voters this year are coming to life not only from stage fights, he said, but also from elections for local school boards and legislatures, which have become much more relevant to their daily lives as residents struggled to find virus testing sites or adapted to Distance learning.
“People are realizing that they are making decisions about how their children will go to school,” Ms Burns said.
John Froonjian, executive director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University, Primary July, when even candidates who had no opponents made a record number of votes.
Votes for the representative Donald Norcross, a Democrat who ran unchallenged in the primary, were twice as many as two years ago, when he had two challengers. Mr. Kim, who had no primary opponent, took it 79,423 votes, surpassing the combined 58,592 votes for Mr. Richter and his opponent, Kate Gibbs, who were locked in a tough fight for the Republican nomination.
“All these signs show a high level of enthusiasm,” said Professor Froonjian. “It’s like they’re not waiting to vote.”