While local elections drove voters to the polls in larger numbers, most New Jersey voters stayed home last November.

Mid-term elections typically have lower turnout than gubernatorial and presidential elections, this year's turnout was close to setting a record.

At 41%, turnout was the second lowest in nearly a century in New Jersey. Only the 36% turnout in 2014 was lower for a midterm election since 1926.

Congressional races topped the ballot, but few of the contests were competitive after redistricting created incumbent friendly boundaries in most New Jersey Districts.

With no statewide races to capture the attention of voters, many were disinterested.


However, in some pockets of New Jersey, local races did drive turnout higher.

In Hunterdon County, The New Jersey Department of Elections reported 57% of registered voters cast a ballot

Some of that turnout was driven by a highly divisive school board race in Clinton Township that was punctuated by rallies and protests in the weeks leading up to the election.

Much of the strife in Clinton and other local school elections was driven by the state's often misunderstood new sex-education curriculum. Fueled by rhetoric on both sides, voters were pummeled with ads and fliers seeking to paint political opponents as bad actors who wanted to harm our children.

The New Jersey School Boards Association reported 2,151 candidates were vying for 1,569 open school board seats in 533 school districts.

Hunterdon was the only New Jersey county to have turnout above 50%. Turnout was half on opposite ends of the state with Sussex and Cape May Counties each reporting 50% turnout.

Essex County had the lowest turnout. Congressional races were not competitive and there were no hotly contested local races.

Mercer County had turnout slightly higher than the state average (42%), partly due to contested races for city council seats in Trenton.

The turnout figures were disappointing to many, who had hoped multiple voting options would have engaged more voters.  Early voting and vote by mail options did little to increase turnout.

The highest voter turnout in a midterm election in New Jersey was in 1938 when 74% of voters cast a ballot. Turnout was 70% or above in 1934, 1954, 1958, 1966, and 1970.

Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at eric.scott@townsquaremedia.com

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