New Jersey’s June 8 primary will see the return of in-person voting this year, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday.
“We can take this step because our numbers, while up a bit over the past week, are holding steady and we are expecting to be in a much better place two and a half months from now,” Murphy said.
He said “all of our regular operating polling places” would be open.
Monday’s announcement follows one in early February allowing April 20 school board and local fire district elections and May municipal elections to be held in-person.
New Jersey’s voting systems faced upheaval last year after virus fears pushed the state to run all of its elections almost entirely through mail-in ballots. Local April races were delayed until May.
Though in-person voting was available for those races, as well as for last year’s primary and general elections, it was limited to paper provisional ballots at a reduced number of polling stations.
The state also faced a shortage of poll workers that forced the state to seek assistance from the National Guard. Those often-elderly poll workers were also waylaid by virus fears.
Lawmakers are even now moving to head off such a shortage. The Assembly Labor Committee last Monday approved a bill that would allow minors aged 16 and older to work the polls on election day between 5:30 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Though some Republicans balked at Murphy’s changes to last year’s elections, the return to in-person voting may benefit Democrats more than it harms them.
Though New Jersey Republicans have spent less time and fewer resources encouraging their rank-and-file to vote through the post than their Democratic counterparts, GOP voters took to it without much issue last year.
Voters in Democratic strongholds like Essex and Hudson Counties were more hesitant. Just 62% of voters in those two counties turned out, compared to 86% in Hunterdon, 82% in Monmouth, 79% in Gloucester and 78% in Burlington, Cape May, Morris, Ocean and Sussex.
The resistance in the solidly blue counties came from elderly urban — and largely non-white — who were less prepared to trust mail-in voting.