By Jean Mikle
Asbury Park Press
Accompanied by his wife, Tammy, and their four children, Gov. Phil Murphy cast his ballot here Saturday on the first day of early in-person voting in New Jersey.
Murphy, his wife and family voted in the Long Branch Arts and Cultural Center shortly about 10:30 a.m., shortly after walking down Broadway from U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone’s district office. Pallone, D-N.J., walked with the Murphys into the cultural center and also voted Saturday.
“We just voted, all six Murphys, early voting. It was incredibly impressive, the machines, the workers, the whole process, it’s really impressive,” Middletown resident Murphy said after leaving the cultural center. “I just want to make sure folks know this is easy-peasy.”
In March, Murphy signed a law requiring New Jersey counties to provide early, in-person voting for all statewide elections. The law requires counties to hold nine days of in-person voting before Election Day in November, ending on the Sunday before the general election.
The machines used for early voting are digital.
Murphy checked in using a stylus to sign a digital poll book that is linked to poll books used at locations throughout the county to combat duplicate votes. After signing in, Murphy received a voting slip and was escorted by a poll worker into a curtained booth to cast his ballot.
Upon exiting the voting booth, Murphy shook hands with poll workers. “This is so impressive,” he said.
Afterwards, Murphy chatted for about 10 minutes with other voters in the cultural center, including Long Branch Mayor John Pallone, who is Frank Pallone’s brother.
Murphy is attempting to become the first Democratic governor to win re-election in New Jersey since Brendan Byrne in 1977.
An Emerson/PIX11 poll released this week showed Murphy leading his GOP opponent, Jack Ciattarelli, by six points, 50% to 44%; that’s the closest the race has been in public polling. Other recent polls have shown Murphy with a larger lead.
“I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the polls,” Murphy said. “We’ve been running like we’re 10 points behind.”
There are multiple early voting locations in each New Jersey county, and those wishing to vote early can do so at any location in their registered county. Those voting on Election Day, though, will have to do so at their normal polling place.
Polls will be open on Election Day, Nov. 2, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Early voting began Saturday and will end on Oct. 31, giving voters a a week to head to a polling place and cast their ballot before Election Day on Nov. 2.
New Jersey is now the 25th state to offer in-person early voting on weekends.
“We know in other states that have done it, participation levels have gone up,” Murphy said of early voting. “And it makes sense, when you think about it. So, we’ve gone from one day of in-person voting to 10. … A lot of states are going the other way. We’re opening democracy up and I’m proud that we’re doing it.”
Murphy is scheduled to attend a rally with former President Barack Obama in Newark later Saturday afternoon in the city’s Weequahic Park.
Ciattarelli, a former state Assembly member and businessman, was scheduled to knock on doors in Brick and attend get-out-the-vote events in Colts Neck, East Brunswick, Monroe, Old Bridge, South Plainfield and Toms River. He also had plans on Sunday to have a “chat with Ciattarelli” event, attend an early voting party in Denville and host meet-and-greet in Whippany.
Asbury Park Press
Governor Phil Murphy walks along Broadway to cast his vote at the Arts and Cultural Center in Long Branch on Saturday, October 23, 2021. John Jones | For NJ Advance Media