“It does not take a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires in the hearts of men.” - often attributed to Samuel Adams
It has been nearly three weeks since the 2013 New Jersey primary election, a date so uneventful it would have gone barely noticed, despite a gubernatorial primary on the ballot. The front runners in both major parties won by enormous margins, and most state and local elected offices had no real primary. If one saw more than one name for a position, it was most likely because it was something like county freeholder or a municipal council position that usually says to vote for any two or three.
Newton’s first rule of motion certainly applies not only to physics, but to politics as well. Sure, we New Jerseyans show up every four years for the presidential election, but voters at rest on primary day tend to stay at rest on primary day. What if somebody told you this voter apathy could be the liberty movement’s greatest asset to gaining a foothold in New Jersey politics? For Tenthers hoping to shape the direction of their parties, be they Republicans, Democrats or independents, now may be the chance to start gearing up for a future run, not so much next year, when Congressional elections may increase voter turnout, but in 2015. That’s not to say we shouldn’t try to find good, constitutional candidates next year for local offices, or contact this year’s candidates to encourage them to embrace nullification. Doing so now could lay the groundwork for solid local candidates in two years.
Scott Grossman, Republican primary challenger to incumbent Governor Chris Christie, pointed out that voters in the primaries have twenty times more voting power than those in the general because of the difference in voter turnout. It makes sense. In an election where there are 100 people voting, getting one person to vote for you gains you 1% of the vote. If you have 2,000 people voting, one vote gets you 0.05% of the vote. If both people receive 51 votes in their respective scenarios, the former is elected, while the latter is up to a whopping 2.55%.
The effect can vary depending on the population size and demographics in one’s town and county, but as one example, I’ll use my own town, South Plainfield, in Middlesex County. The county had a voter turnout of 6.96%, with 32,885 ballots cast. Both parties had two candidates running in a vote for any two race in the primary, the top two winning their respective parties’ nominations. In the Democratic primary, 654 votes were tallied, with 335 going to Nicholas Jeglinski, 319 to Sukhjender Goraya, and 0 write-ins.
In the Republican primary, 782 votes were tallied, with 390 for Robert Richus, 387 to Raymond Rusnak, and a major challenge in the form of 5 write-ins. Contrast that with the county freeholder elections, with over 49,000 votes cast in the Democratic primary, over 25,000 for the Republicans. In a vote for any three race, there were only three Republicans, and Robert McCoy would have needed over seven times as many votes as he received to edge out Kenneth Armwood in an eight candidate primary, at least nine if you count the 49 write-ins. For the governor’s race, the Democratic and Republican voters in Middlesex County cast 17,915 votes and 10,389 votes respectively. Add that to the vote totals in all counties statewide, and it becomes pretty difficult to unseat an incumbent or knock out the other party establishment’s frontrunner.
For state and even county offices, getting people elected in New Jersey who support nullification may be a challenge, but in smaller towns people can possibly get elected in off years and introduce local ordinances putting pressure on the counties and states. If you are registered with a party, get involved locally and present nullification as something that should be promoted in your town. Show up at town council meetings if possible to speak on an issue where your local government can get involved in nullification. When neighbors are over, bring it up as a topic of discussion over a beer, a cup of coffee or a slice of pie (h/t to our founder, Michael Boldin). Look for people who can support you if you run, or people you can support who will take the Tenth Amendment Pledge.
Always remember, especially in states like New Jersey, the situation in which we currently find ourselves will not be remedied overnight, or in one election, whether federal, state or local. We must jump at immediate opportunities that present themselves, but more importantly, we need to think long-term. We must work with what and whom we have, trying to educate voters and candidates at the local level.
If New Jersey is to embrace the Tenth, it must be a true grassroots movement, starting at the municipal, county and state legislative level and working up. Start getting to know people who have some experience with elections, searching for candidates who will be willing to run locally, promoting model legislation and local activism at town and county meetings, and getting nullification into the spotlight.