All you need to know about N.J.’s big (and in-person) primary elections Tuesday

Tuesday is a big date on New Jersey’s elections calendar — Primary Election Day.

Voters across the state will head to the polls to choose the Democratic and Republican nominees for governor, state Legislature, and various local races.

And unlike last year, when the coronavirus pandemic upended traditional voting and led to mostly mail-in elections, you can vote in person at voting machines this time.

The candidate that gets the most votes in each primary (and the top two for Assembly races, where two lawmakers represent a district) advances to run in the Nov. 2 general election. Independent candidates have until Tuesday to file paperwork to run.

Here’s what you need to know:


Governor: New Jersey and Virginia are the only two states with gubernatorial elections this year.

Gov. Phil Murphy is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination as he seeks a second term.

Four candidates are running for the Republican nod to challenge him: former state Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, former Franklin Mayor Brian Levine, pastor Phil Rizzo, and engineer Hirsh Singh.

Legislature: All 120 seats in the state Legislature — the body in Trenton that crafts New Jersey’s law and passes its budget — are also up for grabs. Both houses, the state Senate and Assembly, are currently controlled by Democrats. Each of the state’s 40 legislative districts have one senator and two Assembly members.

The state has 18 contested legislative primaries out of a possible 240, and only a handful are true contests. (More on that below.)

Local races: There are about 70 town or county elections with contested primary races throughout the state.

That includes battles for Atlantic County clerk, Bergen County sheriff and clerk, Camden County sheriff and county commissioner, Essex County sheriff, Mercer County commissioner and surrogate, Middlesex County commissioner and surrogate, and Ocean County commissioners.

On the municipal level, there are primary contests in some of the state’s larger cities and towns, including for mayor and council in Camden, mayor and council in Atlantic City, mayor and council in Edison, and for mayor in Morristown, Parsippany, and Plainfield.


Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. throughout New Jersey.


Yes. Last year, both the state’s primary and general elections were mostly mail-in because of COVID-19. But this time, you will be able to vote in person on a traditional machine.

Masks are not mandated statewide at polling places, but your county may require you to wear one. So it may be wise to bring a face covering in case.


Yes. If you’ve already received your ballot but haven’t sent it in, it will be counted as long as it’s postmarked by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

If you want to vote by mail but haven’t applied to do so, it’s too late to mail in an application. But you can apply in person at your county clerk’s office until 3 p.m. Monday.

You can also drop your mail-in ballot in one of the hundreds of drop boxes the state set up last year, which will remain. Here’s the complete list of drop boxes. If you have questions you should check your county website.


In most states, you have to be a registered Democrat or Republican to vote in a primary. But New Jersey has open primaries, which means unaffiliated voters can cast ballots. (Though there are about 1 million more registered Democrats than registered Republicans in New Jersey, there are more than 2.4 million unaffiliated voters in the state.)

You can simply walk into your polling station on Election Day and ask for a Democratic or Republican primary ballot.

But that means you’re then registered under that party. You can return to unaffiliated status after the primary by re-
registering as an unaffiliated voter, according to the state’s Division of Elections.

If you haven’t registered to vote yet, you’re too late for the primary. The deadline was May 18 for the primary election.

To register for the Nov. 2 general election, you must do it by Oct. 12. You can do so here.

You have to be at least 18 years old to vote.



This is the big one this year. Incumbent Phil Murphy is seeking a second term and is already poised to be the Democratic nominee in November. He is running unopposed in the party’s primary.

There are four contenders running for the Republican nod to face him — and it’s been a progressively dramatic race, colored by the influence that former President Donald Trump still holds on the national GOP. The candidates, in alphabetical order, are:

Jack Ciattarelli: The former state Assemblyman lost the 2017 Republican gubernatorial primary but is considered the frontrunner this time. He has support from county parties across the state and a massive fundraising advantage. A 49-year-old Somerset County resident and a former certified public accountant and small business owner, Ciattarelli is more of a traditional moderate Republican who has vowed to rewrite the state’s tax code and lower property taxes by restructuring the state’s school funding formula. But he has also walked a tricky line on Trump. Ciattarelli called him a “charlatan” in 2016 but said he has since supported many of the ex-president’s policies. He does acknowledge that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election over Trump.

Brian Levine: The former Franklin mayor and Somerset County freeholder has said he would bring fiscal responsibility and more open government to the state. Levine, a 63-year-old accountant, said he supports some of Trump’s policies but is not a hard-liner. He does not intend to spend more than $5,800 on the primary and has been “always a grassroots kind of person.”

Phil Rizzo: The pastor of the nondenominational, evangelical City Baptist Church in Hoboken — and former real estate developer — has never held elected office. Rizzo, a 44-year-old Morris County resident, calls himself a populist who is “unapologetically in the right-hand lane” and says his platform is “the New Jersey families ABCs — family autonomy, family business, and family core values.” He is also enthusiastically pro-Trump, to the point of tweeting a photo of himself with Trump at a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago and holding a fundraiser at Trump’s Bedminster golf club. Rizzo did not meet the fundraising requirements to qualify for the GOP primary debate.

Hirsh Singh: The engineer and former government contract has never held office before and has lost numerous Republican primaries in recent years, including for governor, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House. Singh, a 36-year-old Atlantic County resident, is running in this race as a pro-Trump, ultra-conservative candidate promising to make the state more affordable and to “protect our fundamental constitutional rights.” In the only — and very bitter — primary debate, Singh painted himself as an “outsider” taking on “career politician” Ciattarelli. He also made the debunked claim that Trump actually won the 2020 election because of “election fraud.” Political experts consider Singh a long-shot, especially because it’s possible he and Rizzo will split Trump supporters.

MORE: N.J. has a tense race for Republican nod to challenge Gov. Murphy. Here are the 4 candidates.


There are a handful of contested legislative primaries:

37th District: The hottest race is for the Democratic state Senate nomination to succeed retiring Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, a veteran Democrat, in this Bergen County district. Running in the party’s primary are her two longtime district mates, Assembly members Gordon Johnson and Valerie Vainieri Huttle.

The tense race is a microcosm of a growing debate over the so-called party line in New Jersey — in which candidates that receive the backing of the county party receive choice billing on the ballot. Johnson won the line. Vainieri Huttle said she didn’t seek the party’s endorsement because she…

Read More:All you need to know about N.J.’s big (and in-person) primary elections Tuesday