Midterms: From the big picture to the smallest where it all happens

Yes we could! And Yes we did! Nationally we took control of the House, gained additional NJ Democratic representatives, defeated Bob Hugin, and won all our Special State legislative races.

However, it all starts at a much lower level – in local municipal districts where voting takes place. On the final day, that’s where the action is. As the district Democratic challenger I spent much of my time yesterday in a church – the polling location for Teaneck District 3. A Republican challenger never showed up.

Poll workers arrived at about 5:30 in the morning with voters outside waiting in a line. They set up the two machines, arranged the space and spotted flyers inside for a candidate which they quickly threw away. Party literature is not allowed at a polling site. The door opened at 6:00AM. With 1,246 registered district voters, by 9:00AM 260 voters (21% of those registered) had already cast a ballot.  

The polling site was a friendly place where about half the voters knew a poll worker or another voter in line and chatted with each other. We later get the dry impersonal data results, but it is at this hyper local level where there are personal interactions – people talking with each other and carrying out their civic responsibility. As a diverse district there were voters including the elderly, youth, male, female, a rainbow of colors, different religions & politics –  commingling and some entering behind the curtain with a baby or a dog.    

No one while I was there was unfairly turned away. However some had to fill in a provisional ballot rather than voting on the machine. There remain problems with the early voting system. One example is that the rolls used at the polling place indicated people who were expected to vote by mail, and hence could not vote by machine. Some said they did not get their mail-in ballot or had not planned to vote by mail. Apparently individuals who in a prior election had voted by mail, but not checked off a box for “one time only,” were disqualified. However, they were all allowed to vote on a provisional ballot. 31 provisional ballot forms were used.

There were other minor glitches such as when a person said she had registered two weeks ago, but her name was not on the rolls, so she got a provisional ballot. Another person who had to be turned away had initially gone to her local polling site but was told she was not on the rolls. She ended up in Teaneck where a relative lived and and was told she should go back to her original site and get a provisional ballot. 

None of the machines broke down, although two did in other Teaneck districts. The machines are old, leave no paper trail by candidate, and are vulnerable to hacking. We need new, better equipment.

As we modestly like to say, “As District 3 of Teaneck goes, so goes the nation.” With 1,246 registered district voters the total number of ballots cast were 780, equivalent to 63% – a strong turnout which does not include early voters. Here are the splendid results: 

  • Senate: Incumbent Bob Menendez (D) won 570 to Bob Hugin (R) 180.
  • House: Incumbent Representative Josh Gottheimer (D) won 597 to John McCann (R) 142.
  • County Executive: Incumbent Jim Tedesco (D) won 552 to Norman Schmelz (R)169.
  • County Sheriff: Anthony Cureton (D): won 541 to John DeLorenzo (R) 150.
  • Members of the Bergen County Board of Freeholders: Incumbents Steve Tanelli (D) 543 and Tracy Zur (D) 543 won to Hector Olmo (R) 142 and Eric Kulmala (R) 144.
  • Members of the Teaneck Board of Education: a non-partisan race.
  • Public Question: YES 403; NO 130.

A poll worker closed the door at 8:00PM. They then got printed read-outs from the two machines indicating the respective total for each candidate on the ballot and the Public Question. They spent time reviewing the data, signing off on the results for each machine and phoned in the information. The print-out results, provisional ballots, and other material then had to be hand-delivered to different entities. After some 15 hours of work their job was done. Their pay was about $200 or $13.33 per hour, and well deserved.

At home I soon scoured the Internet to learn the full national and local results.  As a person who has lived abroad in two countries, both under dictatorship, it was rewarding to watch and be a part of the process at the most local level, which serves to makes our elections and our democracy so vibrant.

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