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Stories about New Jersey

Phil Murphy becomes the first Democrat to win re-election as governor of New Jersey since 1977

Incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy (D) defeated former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R), becoming the first Democrat to win re-election as governor of New Jersey since 1977.

As of 9:00 p.m. ET on Nov. 3, Murphy led Ciattarelli by a margin of 19,440 votes or 0.8 percentage points. If this margin holds, it will be 13 percentage points narrower than Murphy’s initial election in 2017. It would also make this election the closest gubernatorial election in New Jersey since Thomas Kean (R) defeated James Florio (D) by a margin of 0.1 percentage points in 1981. The results may also be subject to a recount. In New Jersey, any candidate can request a recount within 17 days of the election.

Charles Stile of NorthJersey.com called the election a “race to the bottom” in a September 2021 article, citing Murphy and Ciattarelli’s negative attacks targeting the other. Murphy used campaign ads and events to portray Ciattarelli as out of touch with the state’s electorate and wanting to introduce former President Donald Trump‘s (R) agenda to the state. Ciattarelli highlighted issues such as taxes and the handling of sexual abuse allegations to frame Murphy as an elected official who does not understand the needs of average New Jerseyites.

Murphy’s win preserves New Jersey’s Democratic trifecta, as well as its Democratic triplex. A win for Ciattarelli would have broken New Jersey’s Democratic trifecta and replaced the state’s Democratic triplex with a Republican triplex.

In New Jersey, gubernatorial and lieutenant gubernatorial candidates run together on joint tickets. Along with Murphy, incumbent Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver (D) was re-elected.

Learn more here.



New Jersey voters reject expanded sports betting amendment, approve change to raffle law

Voters in New Jersey decided two constitutional amendments on Nov. 2, approving one and rejecting the other. Proposal 1 was rejected by 56.8% of voters. It would have allowed wagering on all college sports competitions. As of 2021, the state constitution permitted sports betting except on games held in New Jersey and on games featuring New Jersey-based college teams. Therefore, the ballot measure would have expanded sports betting to include all college sports competitions.

Proposal 2 was approved by 64.1% of voters. The ballot measure allowed organizations that are permitted to hold raffles to keep the raffle proceeds to support themselves. As of 2021, the New Jersey Constitution limited bingo and raffles to several types of organizations, including veterans, charitable, educational, religious, and fraternal organizations; civic and service clubs; senior citizen associations; and volunteer fire companies and volunteer first-aid and rescue squads. Of these organizations, veterans and senior citizen organizations were allowed to use proceeds from bingo or raffles to support their groups. The other organizations were prohibited from doing so.

Both of the constitutional amendments were put on the ballot by the New Jersey General Assembly. Legislative Democrats and most Republicans voted to put Proposal 1 on the ballot. Legislators unanimously voted to put Proposal 2 on the ballot.

Between 1995 and 2020, New Jersey voters decided 35 constitutional amendments, approving 32 (91.4%) of them. Before 2021, the last amendment to be rejected was Question 1 of 2016. It would have authorized two casinos in northern New Jersey.



Paula Jones, Younass Mohamed Barkouch, and Natalia Ioffe elected to the Jersey City Public Schools school board

Paula Jones, Younass Mohamed Barkouch, and Natalia Ioffe won election to the three at-large open seats on the Jersey City Public Schools school board. As of 1:00 a.m. EST, Jones had received 23.6% of the vote, Barkouch had received 19.8%, and Ioffe had received 19.6%. None of the other six candidates had received more than 10% of the vote. 

Jones, Barkouch, and Ioffe ran on the Education Matters slate with an endorsement from the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA). Their election means that NJEA-backed candidates will maintain their 7-2 majority on the board. 

The three seats were open since three incumbents didn’t seek re-election—Mussab Ali, Marilyn Roman, and Joan Terrell-Paige. They were last elected in 2018 on the Education Matters slate. In 2020, the Education Matters slate won all three seats up for election. In 2019, the Education Matters slate won three seats and two members of the Change for Childrenslate won the other two up for election.

To read more about the Jersey City Public Schools election, click here.



New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice selects Philip Carchman as Legislative Reapportionment Commission tiebreaker

On Oct. 7, New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner named Philip Carchman as the tiebreaker member of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission. Carchman is a former state appellate court judge of the New Jersey Superior Court.

In July, Rabner requested tiebreaker proposals from the Democratic and Republican members of the commission, saying: “If there is a match, I would be favorably inclined to appoint the individual.” The members submitted lists of candidates in August, but no names matched between the lists. Carchman did not appear on either party’s list of recommended candidates.

The New Jersey Supreme Court also selected the tiebreaker for the Congressional Redistricting Commission. A majority of the court voted to select John Wallace, a retired New Jersey Supreme Court justice, to act as a tiebreaker after the commission members were unable to agree on a candidate.

The state constitution gives the chief justice authority to choose an 11th member of the commission to break a tie in the event that the commission cannot reach agreement on state legislative district maps. The redistricting process will officially begin in New Jersey on Oct. 23. Legislative redistricting maps must be approved by March 1, 2022.



Eight state legislative incumbents—3.9% of those seeking re-election—lost in contested primaries

Eight state legislative incumbents—five Democrats and three Republicans— lost in primaries in 2022, representing 3.9% of all incumbents who filed for re-election and 20% of all incumbents who faced contested primaries.

This was an average number of incumbents defeated in primaries compared to the five odd-year election cycles before it. Sixteen incumbents lost primaries in 2019. No incumbents lost primaries in 2017.

Two hundred and twenty state legislative seats are up for election on Nov. 2, 2021, in three state legislative chambers: the New Jersey State Senate and General Assembly and the Virginia House of Delegates.

Two of the three chambers holding elections this year saw decade-high numbers of incumbents lose in primaries: the New Jersey General Assembly (3) and the Virginia House of Delegates (5). Incumbents have won every contested primary in the New Jersey State State Senate since 2003.

Among these three chambers, the eight incumbents defeated also marks a decade-high. Ahead of the general elections, the 2021 cycle is already tied for the second-most incumbents defeated among these chambers over the preceding decade.

The five Democratic incumbents who lost in primaries represent 4.0% of all Democratic incumbents who filed for re-election and 21.7% of all Democratic incumbents who faced contested primaries.

The three Republican incumbents who lost represent 3.8% of all Republicans who filed for re-election and 17.6% of those who faced contested primaries.

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Vincent Polistina selected to fill New Jersey state Senate vacancy, unclear when he will take office

On Aug. 4, 2021, the Atlantic County Republican Committee selected Vincent Polistina (R) to fill the vacant District 2 seat in the state Senate, replacing Chris Brown (R). However, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D), who traditionally administers the oath of office, had in late June gaveled the chamber out of session until November.

According to WPG Talk Radio, Polistina was sworn in by retired superior court judge Joseph E. Kane on Aug. 23, 2021. However, according to the New Jersey Globe, a Senate Majority Office official said Polistina’s swearing-in “is not official until he’s sworn in at a quorum.” The executive director of the nonpartisan New Jersey Office of Legislative Services (OLS), Peri A. Horowitz, agreed, stating that “Mr. Polistina is not a member of the Legislature at this time. OLS considers Mr. Polistina to be a senator-select, pending receipt of confirmation from the Senate that he has been sworn-in and his election and qualifications have been judged acceptable by the members of the house.”

According to Politico, Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean Jr. and state Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R) both say the swearing-in session was legitimate.

As of Aug. 31, 2021, Senate President Sweeney has not indicated he will convene the state Senate early for Polistina’s swearing-in.

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Major party competition reaches a decade-high in the 2021 state legislative elections

The percentage of state legislative seats being contested by both major parties in 2021 is higher than at any point in the past decade, according to a Ballotpedia analysis of candidate filings. Of the 220 seats up for election in New Jersey and Virginia, 93% are set to feature a Democrat versus a Republican on the general election ballot this November. Of the remaining 15 seats, ten will likely be won by Democrats since they have no Republican competitors and five will likely be won by Republicans.

This is the first state legislative election cycle since at least 2010 where more than 90% of state legislative seats up for election nationwide were contested by both major parties. This increase in major party competition was largely driven by an increased level of competitiveness in the Virginia House of Delegates over the past decade. 

In 2011, less than half of the seats in the chamber were contested by both major parties. In 2021, 93% of seats featured major party competition, an increase of 52 percentage points over the decade. The chamber began trending more competitive in 2017 when Democrats contested 57% more seats than they had in 2015. Both parties continued to increase their numbers of contested seats in 2019 and 2021.

By comparison, state legislative elections in New Jersey have tended to feature higher levels of major party competition throughout the decade. At least 90% of seats have been contested by both major parties in each election cycle from 2011 to 2021 in both the Senate and General Assembly.

In the Senate, which saw its decade-high number of uncontested seats in 2021, the rate of major party competition remained above 92%.

In the General Assembly, Democrats have contested every seat since 2017. The highest number of uncontested seats in the chamber came in 2015 when eight seats, or 10%, were effectively guaranteed to one of the two major parties.

Major party competition refers to the percentage of state legislative seats where voters have the ability to choose between one of the two major parties: Democrats or Republicans. These figures are subject to change ahead of the November general elections as candidates of either party may still drop out. Ballotpedia will continue to provide updates throughout the election cycle.

Major party competition is one component of Ballotpedia’s annual state legislative competitiveness study, which also includes analyses of incumbents in contested primaries and open seats.

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Aug. 30 marks the filing deadline for Jersey City mayor and council

The filing deadline to run for elected office in Jersey City in New Jersey is on Aug. 30. Prospective candidates may file for Jersey City mayor and nine city council seats. All six districts of the city council are up for election as well as the two at large seats and council president. 

The general election is scheduled for Nov. 2. If necessary, a runoff election is scheduled for Dec. 7. 

Jersey City is the second-largest city in New Jersey and the 73rd-largest city in the U.S. by population.

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Redistricting round-up: U.S. Census Bureau releases 2020 data necessary to begin the redistricting process (and other news)

Today’s redistricting round-up includes news from: 

  1. The U.S. Census Bureau was scheduled to release 2020 census data necessary for redistricting on Aug. 12
  2. Michigan, where an announcement about a potential legal counsel hire has drawn criticism
  3. New Jersey, where a congressional redistricting tiebreaker was chosen and the Secretary of State announced a date for the release of adjusted census data

U.S. Census Bureau releases 2020 data necessary to begin the redistricting process

The U.S. Census Bureau was scheduled to release 2020 census data on August 12, 2021. The data will include county-level demographic information on the ethnic, racial, and age makeup of neighborhoods across the country and will allow states to begin drawing district maps. The Bureau will release a complete tabulated version of the dataset on Sept. 30. In addition to drawing district maps, census data is also used by federal agencies and local governments in allocating funds and other planning and decision-making processes.

Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission announces it may hire Mark Braden and law firm BakerHostetler as legal counsel

On Aug. 6, the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission announced it was considering hiring Mark Braden and law firm BakerHostetler as legal counsel. Braden was formerly chief counsel to the Republican National Committee and defended North Carolina Republican legislators in litigation about the redrawing of North Carolina legislative districts in 2017. Critics said hiring the firm would compromise the independence of the committee. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) tweeted “Friendly reminder that Michigan’s Independent Redistricting Commission is just that – independent,” and anti-gerrymandering author David Daley said the firm was “infamous for advising and defending some of the most egregious GOP gerrymanders of the last decade.” Committee spokesperson Edward Woods III said BakerHostetler was the only firm to submit a proposal: “We sent out two requests for litigation counsel. Unfortunately, no one responded the first time, and they are the only firm that responded this time. As always, we welcome and consider public input in making our decisions openly and transparently,” Woods said.

For more information about the current redistricting cycle in Michigan, click here.

New Jersey Supreme Court selects congressional redistricting tiebreaker

On Aug. 6, a majority of the New Jersey Supreme Court voted to select John Wallace, a retired New Jersey Supreme Court justice, to act as a tiebreaker on the congressional redistricting commission. His selection came after the 12 members of the state Congressional Redistricting Commission (six Democrats and six Republicans) did not agree on a 13th member by the July 15, 2021, deadline, meaning the decision went to the seven-member New Jersey Supreme Court. The court had until Aug. 10 to pick a tiebreaker.

New Jersey Secretary of State establishes date for release of adjusted Census data

On Aug. 9, Secretary of State Tahesha Way (D) said that she would release adjusted Census data within seven days of the Census data release on Aug. 12 to all members of the redistricting commissions and the public concurrently. Her announcement came after Republican leaders of New Jersey’s redistricting commissions submitted a request for clarification regarding the data.

On Jan. 21, 2020, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed S758 into law, which requires the Secretary of State to use Department of Corrections data to count incarcerated individuals at their last known residential address for the purposes of legislative redistricting, rather than the location of their incarceration at the time of the census. Legislative Apportionment Commission Republican Chairman Al Barlas and Congressional Redistricting Commission GOP Chairman Doug Steinhardt said in their request to Way that the Census Bureau’s use of differential privacy in the 2020 census would produce data inconsistent with DOC data, since “this statistical technique deliberately manipulates census data to assertedly protect the confidentiality of respondents by introducing ‘statistical noise; into both population totals and demographic characteristics.” In Way’s response, she said her office would be “guided by the duties set forth under the law concerning the reallocation of incarcerated individuals whether their previous address is known or unknown.”

For more information about the current redistricting cycle in New Jersey, click here.

Additional reading:

Redistricting in Michigan after the 2020 census

Redistricting in New Jersey after the 2020 census



Redistricting review: New Jersey Republicans request clarification from secretary of state about how to count incarcerated individuals

On July 26, the New Jersey Globe reported that the Republican leaders of New Jersey’s redistricting commissions had requested clarification from Secretary of State Tahesha Way (D) on how incarcerated people in the state should be counted in reapportionment and redistricting processes. Under S758, passed in 2020, New Jersey must count incarcerated individuals at their last known residential address for the purposes of legislative redistricting, rather than the location of their incarceration at the time of the census. A698, which currently awaits action from Gov. Phil Murphy (D), would expand that requirement to redistricting for municipal, county, school board, and congressional purposes.

Under S758 and A698, the secretary of state must submit an apportionment report based on numbers from the New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC). Legislative Apportionment Commission Republican Chairman Al Barlas and Congressional Redistricting Commission GOP Chairman Doug Steinhardt said in their request to Way that the U.S. Census Bureau’s use of differential privacy in the 2020 census would produce data inconsistent with DOC data because “this statistical technique deliberately manipulates census data to assertedly protect the confidentiality of respondents by introducing ‘statistical noise; into both population totals and demographic characteristics.” “Barlas and Steinhardt asked whether there was a plan for “addressing the consequences of differential privacy with regard to New Jersey’s prison populations [and] … how will discrepancies between census and DOC data be rectified.”

Barlas and Steinhardt requested that Way respond by Aug. 2.

In other redistricting news, public redistricting hearings are scheduled in Indiana, South Carolina, Washington, and Virginia.

Additional reading:

Redistricting in New Jersey after the 2020 census

Redistricting in Indiana after the 2020 census

Redistricting in South Carolina after the 2020 census

Redistricting in Washington after the 2020 census

Redistricting in Virginia after the 2020 census