Long-term, one of the most significant news stories of the 2019 New Jersey primary election will be that more people voted by mail in Camden County than at the polls.
It sends a strong signal that the exponential growth of vote-by-mail ballots will increasingly become an important factor in how campaigns are run. Candidates who don’t understand VBM ballots will lose competitive races.
The explosion of vote-by-mail ballots is partly a result of a new law went into effect last year that – for better or worse — automatically sends VBM ballots to every voter who asked for them in a previous year, unless the voter proactively opts out.
Here’s what happened on Tuesday: 20,432 voters cast their ballots by mail, while 20,289 voted by machine. The number of VBM ballots will likely increase over the next two days. One component of the new law was that any ballot postmarked by Tuesday will be accepted, as long as they arrive at the county Board of Elections office by close of business on Thursday.
Vote-by-Mail has been on an upward trajectory in Camden for the last few years.
In the June 2018 primary, machine turnout greatly exceeded VBMs: 28,945 voters turned out on Election Day (63%) while 17,329 (37%) mailed in their ballots. In the 2017 gubernatorial primary, 73% of voters cast their ballots on voting machines and 27% by mail.
Camden Republicans voted by mail with greater frequency than Democrats – 60% of Republicans used the vote-by-mail option, while 48% of Camden Democrats did.
Democrats had a 19% turnout in Camden and Republicans were at 15%.
In comparison, Hudson County Democrats had voter turnout of 11%, with Republicans turnout at 6%.