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Not About Trump: Voters Just Sent a Bigger Message in NJ and VA

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Created: 08 November, 2017
Updated: 17 October, 2022
3 min read

Rasmussen published the results of a new survey Tuesday that showed a sizable percentage (around a third in each state) of likely voters saw the elections in New Jersey and Virginia as a referendum on Trump.

The larger take way, however, is that voters are just sick and tired of the parties and their candidates on both sides of the aisle.

Given the low turnout in both states, it appears most voters were sending a much bigger message than how they felt about the president:

  • Most voters are tired of the political status quo;
  • They are unhappy with the two-party system; and
  • They feel disenfranchised by two-party control.

It is an off-year election season, so voter turnout is not expected to be high. Most elections nationwide were local, and while local politics has a greater effect on the individual, these elections do not get much media attention -- even by local news stations -- and thus voters don't turnout in large numbers.

Still, for two states, New Jersey and Virginia, voters went to the polls to decide the next governor of their state. These were big races that got national media attention, but only 35 percent of registered voters turned out in New Jersey.

Virginia was notably higher at 47 percent, but that is still less than half of the registered voting population in a race that was touted to have national implications and was for the state's highest office.

It seems most voters are just tired of the political status quo and the control the two parties have on elections.

In New Jersey, Republican Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, who lost the election to Democrat Phil Murphy, only garnered the support of approximately 14.8 percent of the registered voting population. New Jersey will be governed by someone who only received support from 19.5 percent of registered voters.

Kim Guadagno has defended the state's closed partisan election system, saying that if voters felt disenfranchised by the process, "they should 'simply join a party.'" Yet most voters don't want to "simply join a party." That is why a plurality of voters in New Jersey are registered independent.

Guadagno openly supports an election system that is controlled by two private political corporations -- the Republican and Democratic Parties -- and serves the interest of these parties above voters. With party-first candidates like Guadagno and Murphy on the ticket, is it any wonder why most voters didn't show up to vote?

The Independent Voter Project led a coalition of individual plaintiffs and nonpartisan organizations that challenged closed primaries in New Jersey, filing a lawsuit in 2014. The case made it all the way to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, but was dismissed by the court.

Voters are fed up with politics as usual. They showed that in the 2016 presidential election with the election of Donald Trump, and the broad support for Bernie Sanders, two candidates that challenged establishment politics.

And most voters now see what is going on. The partisan election system in most states disenfranchises millions of voters. And it is not just party primaries.

A recent Harvard Business School study examines how all of these have a damaging impact on our democracy, and the result is broad voter distrust of the current election system, and the two parties that control it.

Another recent survey found that Democratic Party favorability has hit a 25-year low, while the Republican Party is even lower.

A Centrist Project poll among likely Colorado voters shows that most, including a sizable percentage of registered Republicans and Democrats, are open to voting for an independent candidate.

Most voters do not feel represented by the two major parties, and an overwhelming majority say a third party is needed.

Voters across the political spectrum want change. They are so disenchanted with the current two-party system that they don't want any part of it. This is the real message voters sent Tuesday, and will continue to send until something changes.

Photo Credit: Andrew Cline / shutterstock.com

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