Nov. 3 was Election Day for every legislative district in New Jersey, but at Montclair State University, more students walked by the voting station than those who came to vote.
“Would you guys like to vote?” asked Brian McArdle, Coordinator of Civic and Voter Engagement, as people walked by the polling station located inside Machuga Heights. Yet, more often than not, his question was met with a flat-out “no” or people saying they were in a rush and didn’t have time.
Machuga Heights was just one of the many polling stations for New Jersey’s 40th legislative district. During this election, voters were able to decide which two candidates will represent them in the New Jersey General Assembly.
Montclair State extends into two counties and, depending on location, is represented by two separate legislative districts. Students who reside in Blanton Hall, The Heights, The Village, Hawk Crossings and Sinatra Hall were able to vote at the Machuga Heights polling station and are represented by New Jersey’s 40th legislative district. Students living in Montclair and Clifton, including students who live in Freeman, Russ and Bohn Halls, are represented by New Jersey’s 34th legislative district and had to travel off campus to nearby polling stations in order to vote.
Incumbent Assemblypeople Sheila Oliver and Thomas Giblin represented Democrats for New Jersey’s 34th district, while John Traier and Clenard Childress represented Republicans and Independents respectively. In the 40th district, incumbent Republican Assemblymen David Russo and Scott Rumana went up against Democrats Paul Vagianos and Christine Ordway in today’s election.
“[Voter turnout] is definitely not up to my expectations, but I think it’s right around par with what’s going on around the state,” McArdle said. Civic and Voter Engagement at Montclair State hosted several events in an attempt to increase voter turnout. The organization hosted an event for national Voter Registration Day on Sept. 23 in preparation for this election. At the event, they registered about 150 people, according to McArdle.
“I think people don’t come out to vote because it’s not part of a developed culture,” said Mahnoor Waseem, a junior who also works with Civic and Voter Engagement, “it’s not the top thing on your mind. Whereas, in some other nations, if it’s Election Day, it’s Election Day and you better get out to the polls. It’s like a habit and it has to be more developed.”
Despite voter apathy and low turnout, many came to make their voice heard. Student Ismarlyn Cosme was able to vote for the first time ever today. “It was kind of weird because, since it was my first time, I didn’t have [any] experience with the machine or anything,” Cosme said. “At the end, it came out to be a great experience. It’s really nice to know that I’m able to vote.”
Others came for a more specific reason. Dan Stein, an English major at Montclair State, said, “I want to get anyone into office who can rally behind Bernie Sanders, because I want him to be president.”
Junior Michael Cipriano wasn’t able to vote, but came to the polling site to get registered to vote. Cipriano stressed the importance of voting and encouraged more to participate.
“It’s great for the country. It’s great to voice your opinion and be a part of something great,” Looking forward to the election next year, Cipriano recommended to other students, “Get involved, learn some knowledge on the presidential candidates, watch the debates and go from there.”
Sophomore Television and Digital Media major Andrew Yi voted today and also spoke about the importance of voting. “Not a lot of people [vote],” Yi said. “In a lot of countries people don’t have a choice and we do.”
State and local elections don’t garner the attention that national elections do. However, there’s a greater opportunity to bring about change and have one’s views represented at the state level. Bills brought through the New Jersey legislature often have a more direct and tangible impact on day-to-day life than national legislation.
“There’s so much that affects them,” McArdle said when speaking on the importance of college students voting. “There’s so much [at stake in the] future, whether it’s student loans or whether it’s legislation that deals with the university tuition.”
Incumbents Oliver and Giblin received a combined 84 percent of the vote and successfully retained their seats in New Jersey’s 34th legislative district. Their challengers fell short, as Traier received 13 percent of the vote, while Childress only received 3 percent of the vote.
New Jersey’s 40th district saw a much tighter race, as the Republicans edged the Democrats by only a few thousand votes. Incumbents Russo and Rumana each received 28 percent of the vote, while Democrats Ordway and Vagianos each received 22 percent of the vote.
According to the 2010 census, New Jersey’s 34th district contains 205,421 people, but only 14.9 percent of that population showed up to vote today. However, almost double the amount of people showed up to vote in New Jersey’s 40th district. 31.3 percent of the population voted in this district, which contains 216,232 people.