By Michael Hill
He’s among the many in New Jersey switching their party preference to Democrat or Republican or Unaffiliated so they can show up in the June 7 presidential primary, a growing number of forms hand-delivered or mailed to voter registration offices across the state.
“I’m in my 20th year and I’ve never seen this many party changes at all,” said Sandra Millner, the Mercer County Voter Registration Administrator. “With all these caucuses going on in the states people are panicking they’re all changing parties. I mean equally.”
“The league has seen a dramatic increase of calls from voters asking questions about party affiliation,” said League of Women Voters of New Jersey Executive Director Jesse Burns.
The League of Women Voters of New Jersey is using a guide to alert the public that they must be a Democrat or a Republican to vote in the closed primary. “The deadline to change party affiliation for the primary is April 13, 2016.”
New Jersey has nearly 5.5 million registered voters. Almost half have no party affiliation, a number that almost equals Democrats and Republicans combined.
State law allows all of those unaffiliated New Jerseyans to vote on June 7 so long as they “… declare your affiliation at your polling place on Primary Election Day.”
“Traditionally we see a very low turnout in primary elections. The presidential primary does spike and it’s because in New Jersey unaffiliated voters are allowed to declare at the polls. So unaffiliated voters will show up on election day and declare before they vote,” Burns said.
“In the end I think this is only going to be a few thousand people, maybe 10,000 at most, out of what is likely to be a turnout that approaches two million in New Jersey on June 7 considering how much excitement there is on both sides for this primary process,” said Patrick Murray.
Murray directs the Monmouth University Polling Institute. He says even with New Jersey’s late-in-the-season primary, neither major political party will have a candidate with a majority of pledged delegates. Nevertheless, he predicts unaffiliated voters will show up.
“So I expect that many of those voters are really Democrats or Republicans at heart and will show up and vote because this is probably the first time in history that a June New Jersey primary actually is going to have an impact on the presidential nomination process,” he said.
Back in the Mercer County Voter Registration Office, Vera Ward processes party affiliation change forms through the Motor Vehicle Commission.
“A lot,” she said.
With it’s doors closing to the public at 4 today and tomorrow, the Mercer County Voter Registration Office will have its workers on the job until 7 each night, processing all those forms for new voters and for all those voters who’ve decided to switch their party affiliations in time for New Jersey’s June 7 presidential primary.