Washington Township Decided Not to Choose

Primary Election Day saw a terrible voter turnout.

This past Tuesday, June 7, was the Primary Election in New Jersey. Washington Township residents over the age of 18 were given the privilege to push a button and have a say in who guided their government, from the local committee to their county freeholders, state senators and assemblyman.

And nearly nine out of 10 of us chose not to.

When you go to vote in Washington Township, there are a few workers in the building in which you vote that take your name, assist you if help is needed, make small talk about the weather or goings on in town. They arrive at their polling station at 5:30 a.m. and leave shortly after polls close at 8 p.m. It’s a long day for them.

But, in this particular election, there wasn’t much chatter. There wasn’t much help needed, and a 14-hour day passed by like tumbleweed in the desert for these workers, who saw one of the worst turnouts in recent memory.

From about 7:30 to 9:15 p.m. on Tuesday, I spent my time at the municipal building, waiting for the polls to close and finding out . Staffers from each of the polling centers came in to drop off the official results to the township clerk, and I overheard many of them say the same thing.

“This was one of the worst turnouts I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been doing this for years,” one woman said.

“Maybe there wasn’t enough hype, enough dirt, to get people listening and out to vote,” another worker said, referring to the differences between this year’s and other elections laced with mudslinging.

Of Washington Township’s 18,533-member population, 12,742 are registered voters, according to the Morris County Clerk’s Office. From that number, just 1,487 either hit the polls on Tuesday or sent in an absentee ballot.

That’s an 11.67 percent showing. If it was baseball, Washington Township would be batting .117, a number that sends you straight back to single-A ball for at least a month. Slightly more than one in every 10 registered voters took five minutes out of their day to choose who leads their government.

That number, quite frankly, is appalling. I’m not writing this piece to get all ‘it’s your civic duty’ or anything like that. That’s not it at all. But let’s take a look at a couple more numbers from the election so you can see where I’m headed with this.

At the local level, Republicans Tracy Tobin and Chris Henwood squared off for what will be a vacant seat on the Washington Township Committee. Tobin won the election by a margin of 43 votes.


I’ve seen 43 people fly in and out of Long Valley’s Dunkin’ Donuts in mere minutes some mornings. If you’ve got a Facebook account, chances are at least 43 of your friends are from Washington Township. More than 43 people have no problems hanging around the two bars at the Brew Pub on most Friday nights.

What I’m trying to say is, that’s a very tiny margin of victory. And when you compare it to the amount of registered Republicans in town (5,290), it’s even smaller than you think.

Let’s go one step further here. All signs are pointing to Morris County Freeholder Margaret Nordstrom losing her race against newcomer William Lyon from Montville, pending a possible recount. Nordstrom, a veteran Freeholder and former Washington Township mayor, had a strong showing in her hometown.

The Freeholder more than doubled her opponent’s vote total in Washington Township, garnering 851 nods to Lyon’s 412. But remember, the freeholder race was county wide. And if nothing changes, Nordstrom will have lost by 10 votes out of a total of 24,550 punched ballots.

Ten votes.

You have more people waiting in the bathroom line at your house on Super Bowl Sunday during halftime. I tried explaining what 43 votes looks like. It’s not hard to imagine what 10 people can do.

What I’m trying to say is this; voter turnout was abysmal on Tuesday, both in Washington Township and across Morris County, and it’s a complete shame. I’m not going to tell you whom I voted for on any level, and I’m not trying to say the losers of the primary election got the raw end. I’m just saying that we, as residents, didn’t hold up our end of the deal.

This country gives its citizens the privilege to choose government officials. You don’t like someone in office? Vote for the challenger. You don’t like what a challenger has to say on a topic? Support the other guy. The point is, we have a choice, whereas so many other people on this earth don’t. And we made the choice not to choose.

As one poll worker said to me at the end of the grueling day, “I don’t want to hear it. If you didn’t come out to vote, I don’t want to hear you complain about what happens in the future with your government. You had your chance.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Thomas Lotito June 12, 2011 at 11:29 PM
With a larger turnout, results might have been the same in other towns too.
MadInNJ June 12, 2011 at 11:44 PM
What part of Sarcasm is lost on people from LV?
Thomas Lotito June 12, 2011 at 11:55 PM
If the trends remained the same across the county, results might have been the same in other towns too, Kevin.
anybodybutchristie June 13, 2011 at 12:32 AM
Tommy, I told you before, my name isn't Kevin. The article above isn't talking about what happen across the county. It focuses on what happened in Washington Township. But since you are fixated on the county, if Washington Township Republicans had only managed to match the countywide GOP turnout percentage of 26.46%, (0.68% increase over the 25.78% you outlined above), this my friend would have produced 36 additional votes. Assuming Nordstrom maintained her 2 - 1 home field advantage she would have won by 2 votes.
anybodybutchristie June 13, 2011 at 12:36 AM
With the realization of Nordstom's loss being due to hometown GOP apathy, maybe now you can understand the central point the of the author's comments.
anybodybutchristie June 13, 2011 at 01:02 AM
There one more aspect of this story worth mentioning. In contrast to WT GOP underperformance, the GOP in Montville, the hometown of the winner, had turnout of 36.55%. The kid crushed Nordstrom with 68.75% of the vote. This resulted in a net of 596 votes for the kid verses the 439 net votes Margaret got on her home turf.
Thomas Lotito June 13, 2011 at 01:05 AM
But they didn't, in absentee ballots and in provisional ballots. Election trends were similar and close except for Parsippany, Lyons home town. Election turnout the year before a presidential race is traditionally low. Thanks for making my point.
anybodybutchristie June 13, 2011 at 01:17 AM
Tommy, As usual you got it wrong; just like you got Lyon's home town wrong. As the article clearly states, he is from Montville. A vote is a vote no matter how it is cast. The information I provided refutes your point. I understand if it's too complex for you to comprehend.
Thomas Lotito June 13, 2011 at 03:12 AM
Kevin, I stand corrected Montville. My point remains the same, Good day!
anybodybutchristie June 13, 2011 at 03:18 AM
Tommy, How many times do I have to tell you my name isn't Kevin? Your point remains the same...it's still WRONG!
anybodybutchristie June 13, 2011 at 03:28 AM
Tommy, GOP voters in Washington Township UNDERPERFORMED in turnout verses the county. Had they matched the county GOP average turnout, Nordstrom would have won. What part don't you understand? Maybe Mad can explain it to you.
wtgodot June 13, 2011 at 01:10 PM
why doesn't lolita run for office?
anybodybutchristie June 13, 2011 at 01:18 PM
Is this a trick question? Tommy would come in 4th in a race with only three candidates!
TEDucator June 13, 2011 at 11:49 PM
This is a nice article about a sad topic. Congrats to Mr. Tobin for the Township Council, he won by getting the votes of the people who actually care and do vote every year. It seems like except for presidential races and cases where there is just a purely evil person to be taken out, Washington Township too often stays home. '08 was the last big one when the town herocially rose up and tossed incumbent Kevin Nedd out by the greatest margin of votes of any Morris County municipality in history. It is sad it takes that sort of focused community disgust to get a turnout.
Alice Jameson June 14, 2011 at 12:11 AM
TEDucator: What ever happened to that Nedd guy? He used to update that awful blog and I'd see him at the TC meetings, but he just seems to have fallen off the face of the earth.
anybodybutchristie June 14, 2011 at 03:24 AM
Say what you want about former Committeeman Nedd, but at least he made it to the General Election (where he received over 3500 votes). He wasn't tossed out in a Primary exclusively by members of his own party, e.g. the way Popper and Nordstorm were shown the door! He also wasn't beaten by a political novice less than half his age! Ouch!!!
MadInNJ June 14, 2011 at 03:35 PM
Although he has taken to referring to himself in the Third Person. And it is amazing how much someone who Isn'tKevinNedd knows about the late, lamented committeeman and is willing to flog his legacy. ;)
anybodybutchristie June 14, 2011 at 04:32 PM
They have this neat app called Google! http://newjerseyhills.com/observer-tribune/latest_news/article_59057c5c-91e7-55e7-bfb8-2ee159da5dbe.html Other than his vote total, which I got wrong (he got 3200 votes), what information did I disclose about Nedd?
MadInNJ June 14, 2011 at 04:42 PM
His alternate identity - ABC! ;)
anybodybutchristie June 14, 2011 at 04:51 PM
Keep guessing. Like I told Tommy, I'm not Nedd.
MadInNJ June 14, 2011 at 05:02 PM
Mrs. Nedd? Nedd's Evil Alter-Ego? Nedd Jr.? Nedd-Lite? ddeN? P.S. Have you and the former committeeman ever been seen together?
Louis C. Hochman June 14, 2011 at 05:16 PM
Folks - the comments here are getting pretty far afield of the original topic. If people would like to discuss the issue of voter turnout, or even the election more generally, we'd be happy to have that conversation. But if all we get here is people trying to agitate one another, and not addressing the topic at hand, we'll close this thread.
anybodybutchristie June 14, 2011 at 05:33 PM
Thanks Louis. Getting back on topic, had Washington Township Republicans bothered to vote at the same turnout percentage as Morris County Republicans, Nordstrom would not have lost her seat. For those who can understand simple math, it's pretty clear.
Beach Mover June 14, 2011 at 07:09 PM
Sometimes it is pretty simple. People do vote for the ones they want. Mr Nedd was voted out, by I am sure, some of the same people who voted for him the first time(Like me). I voted for him and was very disappointed. Sometimes attitude has just as much to do with who you vote for as policies. I believe, while Mr Nedd was on TWP Comm his attitude changed and he became non responsive to many people in town. That is why I think he lost. Weiner policies have not changed but what people think of him has. You lose when more people vote for the other candidate.
Alice Jameson June 14, 2011 at 07:57 PM
TEDucator: Thanks for the information.
Alice Jameson June 14, 2011 at 08:37 PM
TEDucator: Yes, I know. It was a great day for our town, but a terrible day for the country. Large turnouts are a double-edged sword. While some monsters are removed from office, others are ushered in.
anybodybutchristie June 14, 2011 at 09:01 PM
Jeff, Your theory makes no sense. In 2005, Nedd ran as an Independent and received a little over 2700 votes. In 2008, he ran as a Democrat and his vote count increased to over 3200. As a Republican, Harmon had a huge advantage. That's the only reason he won. The simple fact is Nedd was voted out because he changed parties (to support Obama) and ran as a Democrat in a solid Republican town. Your other speculations are hogwash.
anybodybutchristie June 14, 2011 at 09:59 PM
If you ever attend monthly WT Dems meeting, I'm sure you will see us together.
anybodybutchristie June 14, 2011 at 11:48 PM
Btw Jeff, when Nedd assumed office the reigning municipal tax increase was over 11%! When he left office it was down to 2%. How is this "non responsive" to many people in town? Were you "non responsive" to many people in town when as BOE Finance Chair you imposed an 8.4% school tax increase? This unprecedented $2.4 million dollar tax increase still stands as the single highest one time tax increase of any kind in the history of the township!!! Sometimes it is pretty simple. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
TEDucator June 15, 2011 at 01:58 AM
I think that turnout in Washington Township has changed over the years as the demographic grew older and issues evolved from land preservation (1998) to recreation (2003) to property taxes (2007) to the issue of a truly creepy elected official anonymously posting on the internet 24/7 with desperate narcisstic messages in an attempt to rescue shattered self esteem (2008). People hate anonymous braggarts, especially obvious ones. Why not just come out? Say "This is actually __ behind all these bragging posts. It's me. I'm talking about myself. Please love me. Please be impressed with me. I've disintegrated to the point where I talk about myself in the third person. I wasn't hugged enough as a child." As to turnout, numbers aren't isolated to Washington Township, it all moves as a Morris County herd. Every school budget passed this year. Every town but Pars had tiny turnout.


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