Elections in New Jersey

Elections in New Jersey

Elections in New Jersey are authorized under Article II of the New Jersey State Constitution, which establishes elections for the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, and members of the New Jersey Legislature. Elections are regulated under state law, Title 19. The office of the New Jersey Secretary of State has a Division of Elections that oversees the execution of elections under state law (This used to be the New Jersey Attorney General). In addition, the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) is responsible for administering campaign financing and lobbying disclosure.

New Jersey has traditionally been a political swing state, but has swung Democratic in recent decades. The Governorship has alternated between the two major parties since the election of Democrat Richard J. Hughes in 1961, with a succession of Republicans and Democrats serving as Governor. The New Jersey Legislature has also switched hands over the years, and one house was evenly divided from 1999–2001, when the Democrats took control. Three of the last four gubernatorial elections have been close. New Jersey leans Democratic in national elections. The Congressional seats have been as evenly divided over the decades, with little change due to political trends in the state. New Jersey currently has a Republican governor, Chris Christie and recently elected their first Lieutenant Governor, Republican Kim Guadagno.[1]


Political history

American Revolution

In 1776, the first Constitution of New Jersey was drafted. It was written during the Revolutionary War, and was created a basic framework for the state government. The constitution granted the right of suffrage to women and black men who met certain property requirements. The New Jersey Constitution of 1776 allowed "all inhabitants of this Colony, of full age, who are worth fifty pounds proclamation money" to vote. This included blacks, spinsters, and widows; married women could not own property under the common law. The Constitution declared itself temporary, and it was to be void if there was reconciliation with Great Britain.[2][3] Both parties in elections mocked the other party for relying on "petticoat electors" and accused the other of allowing unqualified women to vote.

Nineteenth Century

The second version of the New Jersey State Constitution was written in 1844. The constitution provided the right of suffrage only to white males, removing it from women and black men. Some of the important components of the second State Constitution include the separation of the powers of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The new constitution also provided a bill of rights. Underneath the constitution, people had the right to elect the governor.

Recent trends

In national elections, the New Jersey now tends to lean towards the national Democratic Party. It was, however, a Republican stronghold for years in the past, having given comfortable margins of victory to the Republican candidate in the close elections of 1948, 1968, and 1976. New Jersey was a crucial swing state in the elections of 1960, 1968, and 1992. In national elections, the state gave large victories to Democrats in the 1990s, and in the 2004 presidential election, Democratic John F. Kerry defeated George W. Bush in New Jersey by a margin of about 6 percentage points. In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama carried the state by more than 15 percentage points.

The Democratic trend in New Jersey is demonstrated by the fact that the most recent victory by a Republican in a U.S. Senate race in the state was Clifford P. Case's reelection in 1972. Only Hawaii have had longer periods of exclusive Democratic victories in U.S. Senate races. The last Republican to hold a Senate seat from New Jersey was Nicholas Brady, who was appointed a U.S. Senator by Governor Thomas Kean in 1982 after Democrat Harrison A. Williams resigned the Senate seat following the Abscam investigations. Brady served eight months in office and did not seek election in his own right.

In 1992, Bill Clinton became the first Democratic presidential nominee to win New Jersey since 1964, starting a succession of Democratic national election victories. Clinton won decisively here in 1996, Gore in 2000, Kerry in 2004. Obama in 2008 carried the state by large margins.

No Republican has received 50 percent or more of the vote in any statewide New Jersey election since 1988. Christine Todd Whitman was elected governor with 47 percent of the vote in 1993 and with 49 percent in 1997.

On November 3, 2009, incumbent Democratic Governor Jon Corzine was unseated by Republican challenger Chris Christie. Christie's margin of victory was 49%-45%.[4]

Partisan strongholds

The state's Democratic strongholds include Mercer County around the cities of Trenton and Princeton; Essex County and Hudson County, the state's two most urban counties, around the state's two largest cities, Newark and Jersey City; as well as Camden County and New Brunswick/Middlesex County and most of the other urban communities just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New York City. Even traditionally Republican Bergen County has trended towards the Democrats in recent elections.

The state's more rural to suburban northwestern counties are Republican strongholds, especially hilly Sussex County, Morris County, Hunterdon County and Warren County. Somerset, a more suburban northwestern county, also leans Republican but can be competitive in national races. In the 2004 presidential election, Bush received about 52% in Somerset and 60% in Hunterdon, while up in rural Republican Sussex County, Bush garnered 64% of the vote.

The southeastern counties along the coast also favor Republicans, notably Ocean County, Monmouth County, and Cape May County. However, Atlantic County, which includes urban Atlantic City, tends to vote Democratic in national elections.

Swing counties

About half of the counties in New Jersey, are considered swing counties, though most lean toward one party, usually the Democrats. For example, Bergen County, is solidly Republican in the wealthier north and solidly Democratic in the more populated south causing it to usually vote slightly Democratic. The same is true of Passaic County which has a densely-populated, heavily Hispanic Democratic south and a rural Republican north. Some other counties such as Salem County lean Republican because the urbanized areas in those counties are relatively small compared to those of the more heavily Democratic counties. Statistically, Atlantic County is the most representative county.

New Jersey Congressional Districts

Following each decennial census, the New Jersey Redistricting Commission forms to realign the districts. New Jersey currently has 13 House districts In the 111th Congress, eight of New Jersey's seats are held by Democrats and five by Republicans.

The more urban districts tend to be controlled by Democrats, while the rural and most of the suburban districts are Republican. The only district in New Jersey that is competitive as of 2006 is the 7th Congressional District (NJ-07) which includes urban, suburban and rural areas in North-Central New Jersey. The 2006 election in NJ-07 was won by the Republican incumbent by just over 3,000 votes or approximately 1%. Incumbents won handily by margins over 10% in the 2006 election in the other 12 districts, though two other districts (New Jersey's 2nd congressional district and New Jersey's 3rd congressional district) were only marginally won by President Bush in 2004.

See also


  1. ^ New Jersey Governors. (n.d.). Retrieved May 09, 2010, from http://governors.rutgers.edu/NJ-index.htm#list
  2. ^ Klinghoffer and Elkis. "The Petticoat Electors: Women’s Suffrage in New Jersey, 1776–1807." Journal of the Early Republic, 12, no. 2 (1992): 159–193.
  3. ^ Connors, R. J. (1775). New Jersey's Revolutionary Experience [Pamphlet]. Trenton, NJ: New Jersey Historical Commission.
  4. ^ [1]

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