N.J.’s vote-by-mail pandemic primary election is happening now. Here’s your voter guide.

It will be a primary unlike any other.

The coronavirus pandemic has made the mailbox rather than the ballot box the preferred way of casting votes in the July 7 primary, where general election candidates for president, U.S. Senate, U.S. House and special elections for the state Senate and Assembly will be chosen.

To make it easier to vote by mail, the state sent 3.6 million postage-paid absentee ballots to every registered Republican and Democrat.

Another 2.4 million unaffiliated voters received applications, allowing them to choose to vote in a primary by mailing them back and requesting a ballot. They automatically become members of the party of whichever primary they vote in, but can re-register as unaffiliated voters later.

The ballots can be returned by mail or dropped off at special lock boxes or election offices in each county. There will be an opportunity to vote in person on July 7 as well, but there will be very few polling places.

The primary originally was scheduled for June 2.

Here’s what you should know about the pandemic primary:


Because of the coronavirus, Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order automatically sending ballots to voters enrolled in a political party in an attempt to encourage vote-by-mail, also known as absentee balloting, rather than have long lines without social distancing at polling places.

The New Jersey Department of State is spending $100,000 on an educational campaign to teach state voters how to vote by mail and encourage them to do so. Ads will run in print, on radio, on mobile billboards and on social media.

“We have four words of message: Vote. Sign. Secure. Return,” said Secretary of State Tahesha Way.



There are three ways.

1. A postage-paid absentee ballot put in the mail and postmarked by July 7.

2. A ballot dropped off at one of five secure dropboxes in each county or delivered to county elections officials, either way by 8 p.m. on July 7.

3. In person at a limited number of polling places from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on July 7.


Now through July 7. That’s when mail-in ballots must be postmarked or dropped off at special locations until 8 p.m. Click here for a list of dropoff locations.


“If you know who you are voting for, you should do it now,” Way said.


You need to contact your county clerk’s office. If you are an unaffiliated voter, you have until 8 p.m. on Primary Day to request one in person.

“Just be engaged with your local county officials and give them a call,” Way said.


Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., but don’t expect to go to your regular polling place. Click here for a list of in-person voting centers. Except for voters with disabilities, who will be able to use machines, everyone will fill out provisional paper ballots that will be checked to make sure the signatures match and the same person didn’t also send in an absentee ballot.


Your signature on the paper ballot will be matched with your signature on file. If there is a question as to whether they match, you will be contacted by mail and have until July 23 to verify that you submitted the ballot and offer additional identification, which could be a driver’s license number, the last four Social Security digits, or a state-accepted form of identification with a name and address.

If you forget to sign the ballot, the same verification process will apply.

The state Division of Elections agreed to the procedures to settle a lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters New Jersey and other groups.


PRESIDENT. President Donald Trump is running unopposed with a slate of delegates that include former Gov. Chris Christie. On the Democratic side, both former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will be on the ballot. Though Biden has sewn up the nomination, Sanders would be entitled to a share of the delegates if he receives at least 15% of the vote, giving up more support at the Democratic National Convention.

U.S. SENATE. There will be both Republican and Democratic primaries for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Cory Booker.

Booker is facing community activist Lawrence Hamm, who ran Sanders’ New Jersey presidential campaign and has led demonstrations protesting the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Five Republicans are seeking their party’s nod. They are Rik Mehta, a pharmacist and lawyer; Hirsh Singh, an engineer who lost primaries for governor in 2017 and U.S. House in 2018; Natalie Rivera and Tricia Flanagan, both of whom ran and lost as independent candidates against Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez in 2018; and teacher Eugene Anagnos.

U.S. HOUSE. 1st District. Democratic Rep. Donald Norcross and Republican Claire Gustafson, a retailer, are unopposed for their party’s nomination.

2nd District. The Democratic primary in the state’s hottest race features Brigid Callahan Harrison, a Montclair State University political science professor; educator Amy Kennedy, wife of former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I.; veteran congressional aide Will Cunningham; former FBI agent Robert Turkavage, who ran as a Republican for the seat two years ago; and John Francis, an environmentalist and professor.

That’s the seat that Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd Dist., won two years ago as a Democrat before opposing Trump’s impeachment and then switching parties. Van Drew faces a primary of his own against Bob Patterson, former acting associate commissioner of the Social Security Administration.

3rd District. Two Republicans are competing for the chance to face rookie Rep. Andy Kim, D-3rd Dist., rated as New Jersey’s most endangered lawmaker. Business executive David Richter initially filed to run as a Republican against then-Democrat Van Drew, and switched districts after the incumbent switched parties. He is running against union official Kate Gibbs.

4th District. Retired United States Foreign Service Officer Stephanie Schmid, writer David Applefield and consultant Christine Conforti are vying for the chance to take on Rep. Chris Smith, R-4th Dist., who has his own intraparty challenge from Alter Eliezer Richter, a Lakewood rabbi.

5th District. Sanders has entered the race on behalf of Glen Rock Council member Arati Kreibich, helping her raise money and endorsing her challenge to moderate Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer, who ended 84 years of Republican hegemony when he ousted Rep. Scott Garrett in 2016.

John McCann, the general counsel to the New Jersey Sheriffs Association who lost to Gottheimer two years ago, is back again, facing middle school teacher James Baldini, physician Hector Castillo and former investment banker Frank Pallotta for the GOP nod.

6th District. Sanders acolyte Russ Cirincione, a housing lawyer with the New York state government and one of three Democratic challengers running on the Not Me. Us line, is taking on Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., the most powerful member of the state’s congressional delegation as House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman. Another progressive, writer Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, is challenging Pallone as well.

No Republican qualified for the primary ballot.

7th District. The Republicans’ marquee recruit against rookie Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski, state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., first must defeat two primary opponents, physician Raafat Barsoom, and financier Tom Phillips.

8th District. Democratic Rep. Albio Sires has drawn two challengers, Sanders backer Hector Oseguera, who fights money laundering for UBS, and Will Sheehan, a military veteran. The Republican nominee is lawyer Jason Mushnick.

9th District. The third of the three Sanders supporters running on the Not Me. Us. line, clean energy executive Zina Spezakis, faces Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. Lawyer Alp Basaran also is challenging Pascrell.

Republicans have their own primary, pitting Air Force veteran Billy Prempeh against Tim Walsh, a former political campaign manager.

10th District. Democratic Rep. Donald Payne Jr. has drawn two primary opponents, teacher John Flora and law professor Eugene Mazo. Writer Jennifer Zinone is unopposed for the Republican nomination.

11th District. Tax lawyer Rosemary Becchi, who originally planned to challenge Kean for the Republican nomination in the 7th District, switched races and is unopposed for the GOP nod against rookie Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill.

12th District. Lisa McCormick, a publisher who garnered close to 40% of the vote against Menendez in the Democratic primary two years ago, is challenging Democratic Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman. Old Bridge Council member Mark Razzoli is unopposed for the Republican nomination.

STATE LEGISLATURE. In the special election for the 25th Legislative District (Morris and Somerset counties), Republican State Sen. Anthony Bucco and his Democratic challenger, Rupande Mehta, are unopposed for their parties’ nominations, as are GOP Assemblywoman Aura Dunn and Democrat Darcy Draeger.

Bucco succeeded his late father in the Senate, vacating an Assembly seat that went to Dunn.

LOCAL RACES. Statewide, there are only a handful of primary contests in each county. In Union County, the positions of sheriff, clerk and three freeholder seats are all contested on the Democratic ballot.

Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage faces two challengers in the Democratic primary.

In Atlantic City, three Democrats are competing for their party’s nomination for mayor, including current Mayor Marty Small Sr., who took office in October when Frank Gilliam resigned after pleading guilty to federal wire fraud charges.

And a slate of candidates running on the Not Me. Us. line, led by William Irwin, is challenging Piscataway Mayor Brian Wahler and three members of the township council.


“During these unprecedented times, the intent and the hope is to have the election results as timely as possible,” Way said.

That means some races may be decided on primary night, but others may not be official until the end of the month.


While other states organize their primary ballots around the offices candidates are seeking, New Jersey lists its candidates by slates in 19 of its 21 counties.

That’s why there’s a scramble among candidates to get the official county ballot line for the primary.

“New Jersey’s primary ballots give the party endorsed candidates an almost insurmountable advantage and enable party insiders rather than the voters to pick the winners in primary contests,” said Julia Sass Rubin, a professor at Rutgers University and author of a report issued by New Jersey Policy Perspective, a progressive research group.

The two outliers are Salem and Sussex counties, whose ballots are organized the way the other 49 states do it, by office rather than slate, the report said.


Incumbents of both parties have a giant head start in fundraising through June 17, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

U.S. SENATE. Booker, who drained his campaign account for his unsuccessful presidential run, raised $3.8 million since abandoning that race and choosing to seek re-election instead. Hamm raised $63,512.

Singh raised $583,905, almost two-thirds in donations of $200 or less. Mehta raised $78,640 and lent his campaign $315,000. Flanagan brought in $14,836. Rivera and Anagnos didn’t report raising any money.

U.S. HOUSE. 1st District. Norcross brought in $1.6 million. Gustafson raised $250 and lent her campaign $2,000.

2nd District. Van Drew raised $2.5 million while Patterson brought in $272,859. Kennedy raised $900,588 and borrowed $500,000, Callahan Harrison brought in $255,600 and lent her campaign $160,000, Cunningham raised $155,698, Francis had $13,515 in receipts, and Turkavage did not report raising anything.

3rd District. Kim raised $4.2 million, Gibbs $273,902 plus a $10,000 personal loan, and Richter $199,474 plus a $600,000 personal loan.

4th District. Smith raised $931,994 while Richter didn’t report any fundraising. Among Democrats, Schmid brought in $324,813, Applefield $65,783 plus $190,000 in loans, and Conforti $21,687.

5th District. Gottheimer, New Jersey’s champion fundraiser, brought in $5.3 million, while Kreibich raised $474,812.

On the Republican side, every candidate opened his checkbook. Pallotta borrowed $310,000 and raised $243,639, Castillo borrowed $226,000 and brought in $42,440, McCann borrowed $65,000 and raised $108,678 and Baldini contributed $3,602 of his own money and raised $1,478.

6th District. Pallone’s fundraising abilities were enhanced by his committee chairmanship and he brought in $2.2 million. Cirincione raised $55,763 and borrowed $1,000. Al-Khatahtbeh raised $18,991.

7th District. Malinowski raised $3.9 million. Kean brought in more than any other New Jersey Republican candidate, $2 million. Phillips had $12,853.

8th District. Sires brought in $352,857 while Oseguera raised $59,181 and contributed $6,874 from his own pocket. Sheehan and Mushnick did not report raising any money.

9th District. Like seven other N.J. incumbents, Pascrell raised more than $1 million for his re-election, $1.1 million to be precise. Spezakis brought in $73,658 and lent her campaign $201,521, and Basaran raised $29,757 plus a $50,000 personal loan. Prempeh raised $3,738 while Walsh brought in $2,206 and borrowed $2,520.

10th District. Payne raised $337,141, low for an incumbent but much more than his opponents Mazo with $40,520, Flora with $9,020 and a $5,001 loan, and Zinone, who didn’t report any fundraising.

11th District. Sherrill brought in $4 million. Becchi had $588,804 and borrowed $150,000.

12th District. Watson Coleman raised $478,621, while McCormick did not report raising any money and Razzoli brought in $3,065.

Source: NJ.com, https://www.nj.com/politics/2020/07/njs-vote-by-mail-pandemic-primary-election-is-happening-now-heres-your-voter-guide.html?fbclid=IwAR2aaWuVVmfso4TOZksagZYS87Q_QtL9uw4vxOlBvDR_9TDbCro9dp6ipLA

Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him at @JDSalant.