NJ’s 2016 Presidential Vote Upset

New Jersey has been a blue state since 1992; and, until this year has been a good indicator of how the country votes in Presidential elections.

Between 1900 and 2012, New Jersey cast its electoral votes for the next President of the United States more than 80 percent of the time, according to Ballotpedia.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the Electoral College ultimately decides who will become president, with each state receiving one electoral vote for each member of their congressional delegation. New Jersey currently has 14 electoral votes, which represent 2.6 percent of the 270 votes required to be elected president.

New Jersey’s Early Voting History

The country’s first contested presidential election was held in 1796. Under the New Jersey Constitution of 1776, “all inhabitants of this Colony, of full age, who are worth fifty pounds proclamation money” were entitled to vote. Bringing the ideals of the Revolutionary War fully to bear, blacks, aliens, and women were all allowed to cast ballots.

In 1797, New Jersey became the first state in the country to enact a law granting women the right to vote. The law, “An Act to regulate the Election of Members of the Legislative-Council and the General Assembly, Sheriffs and Coroners, in this State,” did not expressly state that women could vote, but intentionally used the phrase “he or she” when detailing rules for the voting process.

Women in New Jersey voted in large numbers until the state Assembly enacted a law limiting voting rights to free white males in 1807. While supporters of the law maintained that the voter restriction was necessary to curtail corruption, the effective result was that a large segment of the population, including women, could no longer vote.

Hometown Candidates

In addition to its revolutionary voting laws, New Jersey has launched several presidential and vice-presidential candidates. In 1884, New Jersey helped Grover Cleveland win a narrow victory over former U.S. Senator James G. Blaine of Maine. After losing re-election four years later, the state again propelled him to victory in 1892. Born in Caldwell, Cleveland is the only true homegrown U.S. President.

Garret Hobart, who served as the 24th Vice President of the United States, was born in Long Branch, New Jersey. While not originally from the state, Former New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson was also elected President. Wilson won the state in 1912 on his road to the White House. However, the state voted for Charles Evans Hughs in 1916. Despite failing to secure New Jersey’s electoral votes, Wilson had slim margin of victory.

Modern Elections

Swing states, defined as those in which no single candidate or party has the overwhelming support needed to secure the state’s electoral college votes, can be crucial to presidential elections. In the elections of 1960, 1968, and 1992, New Jersey played a key role. In 1992, President Bill Clinton narrowly eked out a victory, becoming the first Democrat to win the state since 1964.

New Jersey’s 14 electoral votes are still considered a prize. However, the state is rarely considered a swing state. In the past six presidential elections, New Jersey has cast its electoral votes for the Democratic candidate. Prior to the current “blue” streak, the state had voted Republican in eight out of the previous ten elections. Polling currently suggests that Hillary Clinton will win New Jersey, but this election has proven to be anything but predictable.

Donald Scarinci is a managing partner at Lyndhurst, N.J. based law firm Scarinci Hollenbeck. He is also the editor of the Constitutional Law Reporter and Government and Law blogs.

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