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59% of all N.J. voters returned their VBM ballots

Statewide turnout is at 39% — or 42%, if inactive voters are deducted

By David Wildstein, November 10 2021 9:43 am

New Jersey voters returned 58.7% of all vote-by-mail ballots issued in 2021, outpacing the VBM ballots cast in the 2017 gubernatorial election by over 207%.

With votes still being counted, statewide voter turnout for the November 2 general election is about 38.7%.   Once the tally is complete, this election will likely exceed the 39% turnout from four years ago.

Turnout jumps to 42.4% if 574,441 inactive voters – voters who have missed two consecutive federal elections – who remain on the official voter rolls are deducted.

Still, with total votes cast for the five gubernatorial candidates presently at 2,541,650.  That’s an 18.4% increase over the total votes cast for all candidates for governor in 2017.

County clerks issued 956,250 vote-by-mail ballots this year, and a total of 561,341 were sent back to election boards.  A total of 360,453 New Jersey voters received ballots for last week’s election but never returned them.

Slightly more than 22% of all votes in 2021 were cast through vote-by-mail ballots so far.    The VBM total in 2017 was 8.3%.

Just 1,037 mail-in ballots statewide were rejected by election officials so far, a miniscule fraction of all VBM ballots.  That number could change after Saturday’s deadline to cure technical defects to some ballots.

Turnout in 2017 has eclipsed the 25% in 2013, when Republican Gov. Chris Christie sought re-election, but will fall way short of the 47% when Christie ousted Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in 2009.

The return rate in 2020 will remain an historical statistical anomaly, since the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an election conducted entirely through VBM ballots.  Over 4.3 million votes were cast by mail-in ballots that year (93.5%).

New Jerseyans cast 12.3% of the votes through vote-by-mail ballots in 2018 and 16.7% in 2019.  In 2009, that number was 5.7%.

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