Republicans could not believe it happened again.
Democrats breathed a sigh of relief.
And a shady late-night vote dump had Republicans screaming fraud in this key election.
No one expected the New Jersey gubernatorial election to be close.
Joe Biden romped to victory in 2020 by 16 points and Governor Phil Murphy won a landslide 14-point win in 2017.
Polls showed Murphy leading Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli by eight points.
But as the votes came in it became apparent the polls were – once again – wrong as Ciattarelli overcame an early Murphy advantage to take the lead.
Key to Ciattarelli’s surprising performance was Bergen County.
Bergen was a suburban county that swung to the Democrats but on election night Ciattarelli led Murphy 52 to 47 percent with 100 percent of the vote reported.
But in the early hours of the morning somehow 40,000 votes were added to tally and Bergen flipped to Murphy by a margin of 52 to 48 percent.
This mysterious late-night vote dump helped put Murphy in the lead by around 1,000 votes in the morning.
As the day dragged on and more mail votes were counted, the Associated Press called the race for Murphy who led by just 19,000 votes and clung to a 50 to 49.2 percent lead.
The Ciattarelli campaign refused to concede because of New Jersey’s chaotic election infrastructure which could not tell how many ballots were still outstanding.
“With the candidates separated by a fraction of a percent out of 2.4 million ballots cast, it’s irresponsible of the media to make this call when the New Jersey Secretary of State doesn’t even know how many ballots are left to be counted,” a Ciattarelli campaign spokesman declared.
States should limit early and mail-in voting to prevent debacles like this.
If states like New Jersey do want to allow mail-in voting then legislatures must pass laws requiring all mail-in and early voting to be counted by the time the polls close on Election Day.
All these votes are submitted in advance and there is no reason they cannot be tabulated ahead of time to prevent allegations of chicanery and fraud.
But the late-night vote dump putting Murphy in the lead could not disguise the fact that the massive Republican turnout reflected a major backlash against the Democrats’ policy of permanent pandemic.
No governor in America imposed harsher lockdowns or mask mandates than Phil Murphy.
And the Republican uprising was so overwhelming that election analyst Dave Wasserman explained that if the swing in New Jersey replicated itself across the country in next year’s midterm elections Republicans would gain 51 seats in the House of Representatives.
“To put yesterday in context: in NJ, GOP legislative candidates outperformed the ’20 Biden/Trump margin in their districts by a median of 10.8 pts. If that swing were superimposed nationally, Rs would pick up 44 House seats in 2022 (before even factoring in redistricting),” Wasserman wrote.
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