The polls have closed in New Jersey, and in the hours following, the Associated Press has called most New Jersey Congressional Races.
In most cases, incumbents were re-elected, as expected by most analysts. At around midnight, the NJ-07 contest between incumbent Democrat Tom Malinowski and Republican Tom Kean Jr. hadn't yet been called.
The latest figures compiled by Associated Press election researcher Ryan Dubicki show more than 530,000 absentee or mail-in votes had been returned leading into Election Day, and another 214,000 people showed up in person for New Jersey's second-ever early voting period. The majority of those advance votes are from Democrats — even in congressional districts that tend to lean Republican. But Dubicki reminds election-watchers: Most people vote on Election Day.
In New Jersey, mail-in votes postmarked or dropped off by Tuesday can come in as much as six days after Election Day. That alone would leave some close races in question.
There had been another complication this year. In Mercer County, voting machines weren't able to scan ballots as they were cast.
Instead, ballots were dropped in an "emergency slot," to be tabulated by high-volume optical scanners after polls close. The county includes towns in both the 3rd and 12th congressional districts.
The county clerk's office expected that at the earliest, Election Day votes would be tabulated sometime late overnight. At the latest, it could take days. Democratic and Republican party leaders alike have stressed they trust the chain of custody and the process to tabulate votes.
Democratic State Committee spokesman Philip Swibinski said voters should trust the process, too.
"Of course we want every voter to understand their vote will be counted, and we have deployed resources from our voter protection team," he said.
The NJGOP said via Twitter it too was monitoring the race , but that New Jerseyans should "completely rest assured that NJGOP is ensuring voters' rights are protected at all phases of the process and that their vote counts."
Yet despite those issues, races in the 3rd and 12th were called by the AP late on Election Night — for Democratic incumbents Andy Kim (in the 3rd) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (in the 12th).
For the first time this year, county election offices must publish online the number of mailed ballots that have been received, but not yet counted. The change is meant to mitigate the misperception that large swings in vote totals after Election Day are caused by fraud — and make it clearer that they occur because some mailed ballots are still being counted.
Early in the morning of Election Day, there was a steady stream of voters in Rahway, shifted by redistricting from NJ-10 into the closely watched NJ-07 Congressional District, where incumbent Democrat Tom Malinowski faced a challenge from Republican Tom Kean Jr. Turnout in that Democratic stronghold was key to Malinowski's hopes to hold onto the seat, as the redistricting process put about 30,000 more Republicans in the largely moderate district overall.
But there weren't significant lines there, or later in the day in Hightstown, one of the Mercer County communities affected by the voting machine issue.
“The machines weren’t working so they went to paper ballots, and from what I saw they were working pretty smoothly,” Paul Szymanski, 82, said.
Tom Distelcamp, 24, a diesel mechanic, said the malfunction with vote scanning didn't cause any delays.
"I just walked in, filled it out, filled in my dog’s name ["Diesel"] handed it in, alright goodbye see you later," he said.
In Readington, part of NJ-07, 84-year-old Frances Sikanowicz described a frustration that drove her to the polls:
"Every day going to the grocery store, what’s happening in the school. Today I don’t think I could teach. I’m dissatisfied with everything that’s happening today," she said.