COURT HOUSE – Elections deserve appropriate attention, but some are more controversial than others. In Cape May County Nov. 3, residents have a few ballots that warrant watching.
One race to watch is New Jersey's 2nd Congressional District, between first-term Republican incumbent Jeff Van Drew and Democrat Amy Kennedy. The most recent Monmouth University poll puts Kennedy ahead, 49% to 44%, while several other pundits, the Cook Political Report among them, are calling the race a toss-up.
Van Drew faces his first run for reelection as a congressman after switching parties and publicly supporting President Donald Trump. Although registered Democrats outnumber Republicans, in the district, the race is likely to be decided by the unaffiliated voters. Indications are that Van Drew’s switch of party affiliation will be on voters’ minds.
Three public questions made it onto the state ballot. One controversial question is the use of adult recreational marijuana.
The state has a medical marijuana program. Gov. Phil Murphy tried to get legislation allowing recreational use of the drug for two years. Now, the question will be left to the voters.
While a lot of early talk focused on the tax revenues from legal marijuana, the intense discussions this year on social justice and policing lent new support to the measure’s proponents. People of color are far more likely to be charged with marijuana possession, according to a 2020 American Civil Liberties Union report (https://bit.ly/3jSFgIi).
The first states to legalize the use of marijuana recreationally were Washington and Colorado, in 2012. When New Jerseyans vote, 11 states adopted some form of recreational marijuana legalization.
In anticipation of an expanded medical marijuana program or voter approval for recreational use, several county municipalities started to alter land use ordinances in ways that will prevent the sale of the drug within municipal boundaries.
Another question asks voters to approve postponing the redrawing of legislative district boundaries if federal census counts are delayed. Both sides of this question were vocal. At issue is when the district mapping for state legislative positions is done in response to the decennial census. Federal redistricting for congressional seats is separate and unaffected by this ballot question.
Those who oppose the measure say it delays “rightful representation” for two years, and it is being done in a way that makes an unnecessary permanent change to the state constitution. Supporters say it represents a chance to “get it right.”
At the local, municipal level, two races stand out.
In Cape May, a long-simmering dispute over new facilities for fire and police departments produced two dueling referendums.
The order the candidates for a seat on Cape May City Council would appear on the ballot became controversial enough to send it into Superior Court. The Cape May County clerk testified she had the ballots in the back seat of her car, ready to be mailed once the judge made a decision. In the end, she could mail them.
This is a race that could set a direction for city politics over the next four years when some major issues will need decisions.
In West Wildwood, the race for seats on the governing body took an interesting turn when 80 individuals had their voter registrations challenged.
In the 2016 presidential elections, the borough saw a total of 295 votes cast. The 80 voter registrations challenged represent a sizeable percentage of potential voters. The challenge came from incumbent Commissioner Amy Korobellis, who is seeking reelection, and Debbie Fox, wife of Mayor Christopher Fox.
West Wildwood politics has been roiled by ethics charges facing the mayor and a $1.7 million settlement of litigation brought by the chief of police. How the borough handled the settlement led the Joint Insurance Fund to refuse participation in any of the payments.
Of 25 of the challenges handled by the Cape May County Board of Elections, so far, only two were upheld and 23 were dismissed.
The election produced its share of controversy. Voters have a choice between a mail-in ballot or casting a provisional vote on Election Day. Either way, the results of the races may not be known as quickly as they were in the past.
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