The big election question: How will the turnout turn out? | Mulshine

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Gov. Phil Murphy exits the voting booth at his Middletown Township polling place after voting in the June primary: If he can vote in person, why shouldn't his supporters?

A wise man once said all’s fair in love and war. Another wise man once said that war is just politics by other means.

That’s a thought to keep in mind as the election results roll in this evening.

A key factor will be turnout. As a general rule, a high turnout favors Democrats and a low turnout favors Republicans.

To that end the Democrats are being quite creative.

Back in September a woman who lives on my block received in the mail a very official-looking mailing. It included an application for a mail-in ballot for this year’s election. All her information was already entered on the application. All she had to do was sign it and put it in the enclosed postage-paid envelope, which was addressed to the county clerk.

The package was so well put together that a casual voter might assume the mailing came from county election officials.

After this debacle it's time to stamp out mail voting

It didn’t. When I read the fine print I saw it came from some entity called “The Center for Voter Information,” which is based in Washington, D.C.

Why was a Washington-based group sending out mailings to voters in a New Jersey election? And why didn’t I get one?

The short answer: Because I’m a cranky old man. The same goes for my male friends on the block. All are registered Republicans. None received that mailing.

But the woman who got that mailing – as well as three follow-up mailings - is a registered Democrat. What was going on here?

I emailed their Washington office to find out. They emailed this press release: “The non-partisan and non-profit Voter Participation Center (VPC) and the Center for Voter Information (CVI) are mailing 2,439,487 vote-by-mail applications to 2,080,809 registered voters in New Jersey this month to encourage participation in our democracy. It’s part of an ambitious effort to build enthusiasm around New Jersey’s general election on Tuesday, November 2.”

So why didn’t I get one? Because “VPC and CVI primarily send mailings to members of the New American Majority, young people, people of color and unmarried women.”

Those voters are likely to lean Democratic.

One political operative who works mostly for Republicans nevertheless offered grudging admiration.

“That’s pretty cute what they do, isn’t it?” said political operative Rick Shaftan, formerly of Sussex County and now of North Carolina. “That’s pretty slick.”

It is indeed. That maneuver allows them to keep their non-partisan status while acting in a manner that is likely to get out the vote for Gov. Phil Murphy and his fellow Democrats.

Another advantage is that the group is not even required to register with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission so they don’t have to list how many millions of dollars they are spending.

Plenty of other independent-expenditure groups do so, however. ELEC reported the other day that independent expenditures in this year’s elections reached a record total of $38.6 million for both the primary and general elections.

“For more than a decade, we at ELEC have spoken about the growing influence of these so-called outside or independent groups,” ELEC executive director Jeff Brindle said in the release. “This year’s election already has taken it to new heights.”

When I got him on the phone Brindle told me the Center for Voter Information expenditures are “kind of in a grey area. We didn’t include it at this point but it’s something we have to take a hard look at. It’s very hard to pinpoint with some of these groups.”

That’s the problem with campaign finance reform. The government clamps down in one area – such as limiting contributions to $4,900 – but the spending just moves to another area.

In New Jersey, that area is overwhelmingly Democratic. The only major independent expenditure aiding Republican gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli is the Republican Governors Association at $3,151,249. Meanwhile the various Democrat-leaning interest groups seem to have spent more than $30 million so far pushing Gov. Phil Murphy.

However one advantage the Republicans have is they don’t have to try so hard to get good turnout in their towns.

“These are people who normally vote anyway,” said Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, who is running for the state Senate this year.

Turnout is generally higher in Republican-dominated areas such as Hunterdon County. Hunterdon had an 86 percent turnout of registered voters. Compare that to a mere 62 percent in Hudson and Essex and you can see why Democrats focus so heavily on get-out-the-vote operations.

The problem for the Democrats is that the dismal performance of President Biden is not the sort of spectacle that makes voters head to the polls.

No wonder they’re making “an ambitious effort to build enthusiasm.”

Joe Biden and Phil Murphy won’t be building it for them.


The Capital Research Center argues that the mailings sent out by the Center for Voter Information are designed to deceive voters into thinking they are official government documents. They argue that this practice should be curbed because it can be so easily abused.

Their recommendations:

, prohibit any nonprofit (and other nongovernmental entities) from sending out absentee ballot requests. Voting is inherently political, not charitable—why should the of voting be considered any different? Ballots should remain the exclusive purview of elections officials, not “charitable” nonprofits.

, exclude nonprofits from voter registration, which is often a fundamentally partisan activity that’s exploited extensively by the Left.