New Jersey Governor Chris Christie answers a question during a campaign event in Manville, New Jersey, Monday, May 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Scheduling matters—especially when it comes to manipulating election dates.
Just ask Chris Christie. He’s choreographing a confusing series of statewide elections in New Jersey this fall—all with the goal of benefiting Chris Christie.
And what benefits Chris Christie most is diminished democracy. So the governor—and potential 2016 Republican presidential contender—has managed his election schedule with an eye toward keeping voter turnout low.
Very, very low.
The first step in the process went according to plan. On Tuesday, New Jersey held US Senate special election primaries to choose candidates to finish the term of the late Frank Lautenberg.
From a crowded and competitive field of Democrats, Newark Mayor Cory Booker was nominated with almost 60 percent of the vote.
In a two-person Republican race, former Bogota, New Jersey, mayor and Americans for Prosperity operative Steve Lonegan prevailed.
But almost no one voted. One New Jersey newspaper summed things up when it described voter participation as “little to none.”
When all the ballots were counted, the turnout figure was around 9 percent.
So 91 percent of eligible voters did not participate, despite the fact that these definitional primaries featured a celebrity contender (Booker), two sitting members of Congress (Rush Holt and Frank Pallone), a prominent legislator (Sheila Oliver) and one of the state’s most outspoken conservative leaders (Lonegan).
The primaries were a small-“d” democratic disaster and the October 16 general election, in which Booker is a favorite, could be even worse.
In other words, everything is going as Chris Christie prefers.
The governor created a schedule designed to downplay the Senate race—primaries in the middle of August vacation season, general election in October rather than November—because it was expected to generate higher interest among Democrats than Republicans. He didn’t want it to conflict in any way with his own November 5 re-election run.