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It’s 8 PM and the polls have now closed for the 2019 mid-term elections, where one State Senate seat and all 80 Assembly seats are up in what may be known as the Year of the Unlikely Voter.
Follow @wildstein on Twitter for real-time results and check the New Jersey Globe website frequently.
Before the polls opened over, 230,000 New Jerseyans had already cast their votes by mail. That number has increased throughout the day.
Anybody who tells you they know how the day will end is overstating the information available to them. There are loads of close races up and down the state, for the legislature and for county and local office.
And there are no assurances that all the key races will be decided tonight. Vote-by-mail ballots postmarked today will be counted as long as they arrive at the county Board of Elections by close of business on Thursday.
The onslaught of VBM ballots – more than twice the total number cast in 2015 already – is expected to create some confusion at the polls.
Voters who received VBMs in 2016, 2017 and 2018 automatically received mail-in ballots this year – unless they proactively opted out. Those voters who were sent VBM ballots and show up at the polls anyway will be required to vote by provisional ballot – not by machine.
Election officials have been asked to have an extra supply of provisional (paper) ballots on hand, though it’s not immediately clear if all county clerks did so.
Here’s what to look for tonight: does the margin of the Election Day numbers – machine tally + VBM counted – exceed provisional votes cast + a reasonable number of unreturned VBMs?
Republicans stand a chance to flip a Senate seat in the 1st district, where incumbent Bob Andrzejczak faces a stiff challenge from Cumberland County GOP Chairman Michael Testa, Jr. for the seat held by Jeff Van Drew prior to his election to Congress. Republicans have not unseated a Democratic Senator in twelve years.
Also in play are the two 1st district Assembly seats, where Democratic incumbents Bruce Land and Matthew Milam are being challenged by Lower Township Mayor Erik Simonsen and Ocean City Councilman Antwan McClellan.
Seven Republican Assembly seats could turn Democratic, although it’s possible that no GOP incumbents will lose and Republicans will wind up picking up seats.
In the 8th district, Assemblyman Ryan Peters and former Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield face Democrats Gina LaPlaca, a former Assembly staffer, and Evesham attorney Mark Natale.
In district 21, Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick and Minority Whip Nancy Munoz are in a stiff fight with Democrats Lisa Mandelblatt and Stacey Gunderman. Bramnick could become the first sitting Minority Leader to lose his own seat in at least 100 years.
In the 25th, State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco is trying to hold on to an Assembly seat he has no plans of keeping. He won a Senate seat on October 15, one month after the death of his father, State Sen. Anthony R. Bucco.
If Bucco wins, the Republican County Committee will pick his replacement.
Denville Councilman Brian Bergen is running with Bucco as the candidate for a rare open seat.
Democrats Lisa Bhimani, a physician who won 48% of the vote against Anthony R. Bucco in the Senate race two years ago, is running with Darcy Draeger, a former Wall Street executive who is now a full-time farmer and beekeeper.
Democrats also think they have a shot at ousting Republican Bob Auth in the 39th – Holly Schepisi looks to be in strong shape. They are running Westwood Mayor John Birkner and Emerson Councilman Gerald Falotico.
For the first time since Lyndon B. Johnson was president, there is a control election for the Somerset County Board of Freeholders.
There are also competitive races for sheriff in Somerset and Burlington. Republicans are trying to hold their last freeholder in Burlington, and Democrats are making a bid to win their first freeholder race in Cape May since Van Drew left to become an assemblyman.
There are tons of competitive local races up and down New Jersey. Among the best: mayoral races in Hamilton and Toms River, and a Airbnb referendum in Jersey City.
Click HERE to read the 2019 New Jersey Globe Voter’s Guide.