The votes of former New Jersey residents living in Israel had a greater effect on the results of the special election last week, in which Cory Booker was elected senator, than they would in most state elections.
Last week’s special election set a record for lowest voter turnout for a general election in New Jersey history, with only about 24 percent of the state’s 5,494,230 registered voters submitting ballots according to The Star-Ledger.
The low turnout was attributed partially to the fact that the election took place on a Wednesday instead of the usual Tuesday, was in October and not the beginning of November and only had one race on the ballot.
The special election was called after five-term Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg died on June 3, 2013.
Elie Pieprz, national director of iVoteIsrael, a get-out-the-vote organization for Americans in Israel, explained that “the 24% turnout in New Jersey was precipitated by an election that was held on a Wednesday, three weeks before the governor and other state and local elections. As a result, New Jersey residents were either not prepared to go to the polls [for the special election] or were confused about it.”
In contrast, he said, “voters in Israel just receive their ballot in the mail and return it by mail. The date of the actual election is not really relevant, nor is the fact that another election is occurring in a few weeks’ time confusing to them. They are not watching TV commercials for different campaigns, receiving phone calls from different candidates or receiving direct mail pieces on different candidates or elections. Americans in Israel… are not impacted by the confusing conditions that voters in NJ faced.”
Pieprz explained that with the low turnout, voters in Israel had a bigger impact on the election than they would have in an election with average turnout.
The iVoteIsrael director pointed out that there are about 12,000 New Jersey voters in Israel, and 50% of potential US voters in Israel cast ballots in the 2012 national election. The State of New Jersey does not track voters who returned ballots from Israel or any other country, so the numbers are not conclusive, but iVoteIsrael received feedback from many New Jersey voters who received their ballots, and questions on how to submit them.
The organization, which was founded ahead of the 2012 presidential election, held voter registration drives in Jerusalem, Ra’anana and Gush Etzion in September, including an event with the US Embassy’s senior voting official at the Jerusalem headquarters of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel. In addition, iVoteIsrael sent out e-mails and posted on social media encouraging former New Jersey residents to vote.
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