County Sees Record Lows in Election Day Turnout
And County Clerk Brett Radi said it could be because of the hurricane.
With only 60 percent of registered voters turning out for this year's presidential election, Somerset County Clerk Brett Radi said his gut feeling is that it was because of the hurricane.
"I would have no way to answer other than with my gut," he said. "[In that case] absolutely it has to do with the hurricane."
In prior years, Radi said, presidential elections brought out 80 percent of voters, including the last one in 2008. And this year, he said, only 60 percent showed up on Election Day.
"And we had some communities where turnout was in the low 50 percent, like the northern communities," he said. "That's not typical of a presidential election."
"Many of those areas are without power even today," he added. "I just got mine back Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Somerville."
Based on the number of years he has been in office, Radi said, he has not seen turnout typically this low.
These figures, though, don't take into account provisional ballots, mail-in ballots and all the people who voted at the county clerk's office over the weekend.
"The weekend was extremely heavy," Radi said. "That's why I'm thinking there was a low turnout on Election Day."
On Friday, Radi said, about 500 people voted in Somerville, with another 900 people voting on Saturday. On Sunday, he said, there were just under 1,300 people voting and Monday saw 800 people.
"People told staff over the weekend that they were affected by the hurricane," he said. "Many were leaving town and weren't going to be able to stick around because their homes were too cold. They happened to be around over the weekend."
"But that's why there was a low percentage of turnout, in my personal opinion," he added. "I think it's a direct link."
Normally, Radi said, the county clerk's office opens only on the Saturday before elections for voting, for about three or four hours, and gets, at most, 150 people.
As for the mail-in ballots, that is being handled by the county's board of elections, which was working to count them Wednesday and is planning to continue Thursday, Radi said.
"They are going to specifically focus on ballots that may not have been able to be read by the machine," he said. "They will run as many through the machine as they can, and I think the plans are to wrap as much as possible by Thursday."
In addition, Radi said, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno has said that any ballots postmarked prior to Nov. 5 can still be counted for the election so long as they arrive by Nov. 19.
And with more votes still coming in, the county cannot officially declare a winner in the race for Board of Chosen Freeholders, as Republican incumbents Patrick Scaglione and Mark Caliguire lead by a very small margin.
Scaglione received 62,495 votes, or 26.20 percent, and Caliguire received 60,578 votes, or 25.39 percent.
Democratic opponents Anthony Pranzateli and William Galtieri were both close behind, earning 59,407 votes and 55,932 votes, respectively. Those translate to 24.90 percent and 23.45 percent, respectively.
"I think that we're optimistic we're going to win, but every vote has not been counted," said Caliguire, who was running for his first full three-year term after filling an unexpired term this past year. "We are confident it will work out, but let's see what happens."
Scaglione said there is no question the turnout was lower on Election Day this year.
"The northern part of the county was affected by the storm, and their turnout was even lower," he said. "Something happens at every election, and you deal with it."
Caliguire said that, particularly with the hurricane this year, it is important to ensure that every vote is counted, which means waiting for the provisional ballots, absentee ballots and all others.
"The storm was unprecedented this year, and we don't know what kind of effect that had on everything," he said. "We still have the lead, and we are confident it will hold up, but we can't be 100 percent sure because we don't have everything."
Scaglione, who was running for his second term, said it is important to wait, but he is optimistic.
"I think all three county Republicans will be on the plus side, everything that I've seen leads me to believe that," he said. "The totals now have us all in the lead, but we have to count the votes. You never know if something is going to happen, but I expect all three of us [including Radi] to be victorious."