U.S. Senate primary turnout slow all day in N.J.

On a special election day to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat, poll worker Duane Hoke of Camden has the polling place at the Erlton Fire Company to himself Tuesday, August 13, 2013, as a huge storm moves through the area. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
On a special election day to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat, poll worker Duane Hoke of Camden has the polling place at the Erlton Fire Company to himself Tuesday, August 13, 2013, as a huge storm moves through the area. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Posted: August 15, 2013

As the sun broke Tuesday afternoon, South Jersey voters continued to turn out for the U.S. Senate primary in small numbers, even after the weather cleared from a morning of torrential downpours and flash flooding.

Six candidates — four Democrats and two Republicans — are seeking the primary nomination for the seat vacated when Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg died earlier this summer.

The two winners will face off in a special general election Oct. 16.

Poll workers at Cherry Hill High School West disagreed about the storm’s impact on turnout. Though some said the severe weather didn’t affect turnout, poll worker Mary Ellen Rozmus of Cherry Hill said she thought turnout slightly increased at the school after the rains ceased.

Just after 4 p.m., poll workers reported that fewer than 100 voters had turned up between the two districts voting at the high school.

The number of voters was much smaller earlier in the day at other locations in Camden County. By 9:30 a.m. there was a single-digit turnout at the Haddonfield Central Middle School, where seven election workers brought crossword puzzles to occupy their time.

The workers said they were not expecting many voters — even withouth the rain — for the August special election. They said many residents in the mostly Republican town likely were at the Shore.

“This is probably the lowest turnout I’ve ever worked,” said Betsy Anderson, who has worked at the middle school for a decade, and elsewhere for 40 years.

Anderson predicted between 20 to 25 voters would usually show up, but speculated, “in this weather if even they would come.”

Five early voters came before the morning rain, Anderson said.

Some voters, like Raymond Horner Jr., of Cherry Hill, said the turnout was the worst in years.

“I haven’t seen anywhere near this few voters before,” said Horner, who has lived in Cherry Hill for more than 50 years.

Horner, voting with his wife, Dolores, said he voted for Republican Steve Lonegan.

“We feel that it’s necessary we have a change in the federal government,” he said, his wife adding that Lonegan “seems like a humble guy.”

Thirty-nine people had voted at the Hubert Street School in Secaucus as of 6 p.m. Tuesday, the lowest turnout Barbara Gonzales had seen in 13 years working the polls.

“Of course, the weather was very bad this morning,” she said, as colleagues leafed through newspapers to pass the time.

Gonzales said a couple hundred people usually turn out for primaries at her polling location.

She noted that the special election was “put together very quick.”

A sample of those who did come to the polling station were split between Newark Mayor Cory Booker and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, both running for the Democratic nomination.

Sunit Parikh, 45, of Secaucus, called Booker a “good, tough candidate” who he said was "turning around Newark with economic development."

“Hopefully that translates to the rest of New Jersey,” he said.

Parikh Hasmukh, 78, voted for Pallone because of “his education and his work.”

In Gloucester Township, polling places were also scarce of voters, with only a few trickling into the township’s municipal building in the early afternoon hours.

Gloucester Township resident Jennifer Rothwell, 40, said she voted for Democrat Cory Booker because of what she called success in advocating for the City of Newark as mayor.

Rothwell said he spoke a number of years ago while she was a student at William Paterson University and his message resonated with her.

“When he spoke at my school he seemed open, real,” Rothwell said. “He hasn’t changed.”

Six candidates are seeking the primary nomination for the seat vacated when Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg died earlier this summer.

The candidates have spent the last few days crisscrossing the state pleading for voters to head to the polls.

Two candidates are overwhelming favorites in their respective parties: Booker and Lonegan, a Republican former mayor of Bogota, according to numerous polls.

The challengers — U.S. Reps. Pallone and Rush Holt and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver in the Democratic primary; and physician Alieta Eck on the Republican side — remained hopeful in recent weeks.

At the Haddonfield United Methodist Church, turnout was slow in the morning. Poll workers said their nine voters beat the turnout at other locations.

“I was impressed. I really was,” said election volunteer Bobbie Schmidt, who noted voters at that location came at the peak of the storm. Three election workers arrived at 5:15 a.m., and welcomed the former head of the local Democratic committee who came with a box of Dunkin’ Donuts.

Joseph Levi, 27, from Voorhees, a registered Republican and union carpenter who works in Philadelphia, said he does not follow politics and did not plan on voting.

“I would be voting if it were a nicer day,” Levi said, while waiting for a train at the Patco station in Haddonfield.

At the Community Center in Merchantville, election workers outnumbered voters. Voters came about one every half hour by 10 a.m.

In Camden, several polling locations also experienced low voter turnout. On the Rutgers University Campus, only 12 voters arrived by late morning. Election volunteers said they expected to see an uptick after work, possibly up to 50 people.

At the Rafael Cordero Molina Elementary School there were five voters, all Democrats.

On Monday, Booker was in the area with stops in Cherry Hill, Camden, and Willingboro. He has called himself a champion of cities and the type of “change agent” badly needed in Washington, urging voters to go to the polls.

“When good people don’t vote, we get bad people elected,” he told about 70 senior citizens Monday morning at the North Gate Senior Complex in Camden. “Will you stand with me tomorrow at the polling place? Will you stand with me for Camden? Will you stand with me for our cities? Will you stand with me for your state?”

Flanked by Mayor Dana L. Redd and other city officials, Booker added: “Democracy is not a spectator sport. You can’t sit on the sideline hoping things will change rooting for your team — red or blue — and just hoping things will get better. Democracy is a full-engagement, participatory endeavor.”

Other candidates also were focused Monday on voter turnout. Holt stopped by the Princeton Junction train station at 6:15 a.m. to befriend drowsy commuters, while Pallone campaigned at the South Amboy station in Middlesex County.

A Quinnipiac University poll released last week put Booker ahead by 37 percentage points. Lonegan led Eck by 65 points.

New Jersey’s primaries are closed, meaning only voters registered with a particular party can vote in that primary election.

Polls remain open until 8 p.m.


 

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|