Early Vote-by-Mail data appears to be encouraging news for Democrats seeking to oust Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) and Assembly Minority Whip Nancy Munoz (R-Summit) in the hotly-contested 21st district race.
Two weeks away from Election Day, 4,464 vote-by-mail ballots have been returned, which is 81% of the total VBM ballots cast in the 2015 general election and 41% of the 2017 gubernatorial year total.
To be clear, the increasingly unreliability of pure party registration as it relates to votes cast on Election Day, especially in races where longtime incumbents are involved.
County Clerks have mailed 20,558 vote-by-mail ballots to 21st district voters. The makes the total returned so far at 21.7%.
Of those VBM ballots that went out, 8,650 were from Democrats and 5,560 from Republicans.
While Democrats make up 31% of the electorate in the 21st district, they are 42% of the VBM voter pool (+ 11%). Republicans registration is at 28% of the district, but just 27% of the mail-in ballot pool (-1%).
Of those voters who have returned VBM ballots, 47.7% of them are Democrats and 34.7% are Republicans.
As a matter of comparison, 31.3% of the district are Democrats and 28.1% are Republicans.
So far, Democrats have outpaced their registration on returned VBMs by 16.4% and Republicans by just 6.5%.
Unaffiliated voters make up 40% of the 21st district, but 17.5% of the mail-in ballots returned so far.
In total, 2,128 Democrats and 1,551 Republicans have returned their VBM ballots.
“Democrats figured out how to get people to sign up for VBMs,” said Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “They have been putting money into getting VBMs returned in a VBM election.”
Murray said that the early mail in-ballot numbers “look good for the Democrats.”
“This is exactly what we expected to see,” Murray said, noting that candidates like challengers Lisa Mandelblatt and Stacey Gunderman are reaping the benefits of work Democrats did to recruit VBM voters on the last three cycles.
Murray said that voters who have requested forever mail-in ballots are “probably pretty straight party line voters.”
If Bramnick is unsuccessful, he would be the first sitting Assembly Minority leader to lose his own seat in at least 100 years.
In 2017, Democratic Assembly challengers carried the vote-by-mail ballots in the 21st: Lacey Rzeszowski (2,969) and Bruce Bergen (2,935) led Bramnick (2,458) and Munoz (2,436).
In that election, Bramnick won 29.9% of the total vote, but 22.7% of the mail-in ballots. Munoz was at 29.5% of the total vote, but received 22.5% of the VBMs.
Munoz (1,596) and Bramnick (1,585) led the VBM vote over Democrats Jill LaZare (1,193) and David Barnett (1,126) in the 2015 Assembly race.
There was a 24% voter turnout in 2015, with VBM accounting for 16% of the total votes cast in the Assembly race.
Democratic candidates for Congress in the towns that comprise the 21st legislative district won 55% of the machine vote in 2018, while winning 71% of the vote-by-mail. The 10-point machine margin was microscopic compared to the combined Democratic House vote VBM margin of 42 points.
In the four largest 21st legislative district towns in the 7th congressional district, Malinowski beat five-term Republican Rep. Leonard Lance by outsized margins in the VBM ballots:
* Westfield: Malinowski won 61% of the machine vote and 73% of the VBMs.
* Summit: Malinowski won 61% of the machine vote and 71% of the VBMs
* Cranford: Malinowski won 57% of the machine vote and 68% of the VBMs.
* Bernards: Lance won the machine vote 52%-48%, but lost the VBMs, 62%-38%.
Mail-in ballots allowed Malinowski to win Bernards — a town GOP gubernatorial candidate Kim Guadagno carried by 1,055 votes (56%-44%) in 2017 – by 93 votes (50%-49%).
Westfield cast 31% of their total 2018 congressional votes through vote-by-mail ballots, while Summit was 24% — massive numbers that strongly benefited Malinowski.