On Tuesday, November 2, 2021, Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli went up against governor incumbent Phil Murphy of the Democratic Party in the 2021 New Jersey Gubernatorial Election. As the results rolled in the next day, it was clear that the election was both unprecedented and unexpected.
Many expected Murphy to easily win re-election, since a large majority of New Jersey voters endorsed Joe Biden during the Presidential Election season. And Murphy did win, making him the first NJ Democratic governor to get re-elected since 1977. But what many people, including Murphy, was surprised about is how close the margin was. Phil Murphy won the 2017 election by a 14.1% margin, but this one only by a projected 2.89%. “I thought he’d definitely win by a lot,” said one RHS student. “But it makes some sense, since people might be more willing to vote for the party that has less federal power.”
This led to another surprise: Ciattarelli refused to concede to Murphy until November 12, nearly two weeks after the results had been confirmed. “It shows a weird trend of candidates refusing to accept the voting,” said another RHS student. “You saw it with Trump months back where he refused to accept his loss and declared that the voting count was fraudulent, but less evidently now with Ciattarelli.”
Electronic poll books were also used for the first time in an effort to increase early voting. However, there were technical difficulties that extended the length of the vote count and confused many voters and poll workers. An RHS student said, “It’s to be expected to be honest, and there’s no better time to start a new method than now. But I wonder if those electronic things could be hacked and that would be very bad.” Indeed, though there are no signs of malfeasance, the new method increased levels of uncertainty among voters.
Amidst all these changes, it will be interesting to see how future elections pan out.
Graphic: Zoe Kovac