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Low N.J. turnout for Nov. 6 election

Gov. Corzine partly blamed the stem-cell research ballot question's defeat on the small numbers.

Just one in three registered New Jersey voters cast ballots in November's election, one of the lowest turnouts in state history, according to figures released yesterday by the state.

The state Division of Elections figures show 32 percent of the state's 4.8 million voters participated in the Nov. 6 election - the lowest since 31 percent voted in 1999.

That 1999 turnout was the lowest the state's ever seen.

November's election was highlighted by races for all 120 state legislative seats and four statewide ballot questions.

Democrats boosted their Senate majority by one to 23-17 in the November vote. The party lost two Assembly seats, but will control that house 48-32 when the new Legislature convenes on Jan. 8.

Voters rejected borrowing $450 million for stem-cell research and dedicating sales tax revenue to property tax relief. They approved $200 million for open space and revising voting-rights language in the state constitution.

Gov. Corzine partly blamed defeat of the stem-cell measure, which he backed, on low voter turnout.

The measure was opposed by the Roman Catholic Church, abortion foes, and conservatives.

"I would say that in any circumstance where you get [32] percent of the vote out, the people who organize the best around their issue are going to tend to have the greatest influence," Corzine said last month. "I think that's what you saw."

Turnout ranged from 19 percent in Hudson County to 46 percent in Cape May County.

The highest recent turnout during a New Jersey election was 83 percent in 1992, a presidential election year.

Peter Woolley, a political scientist at Fairleigh Dickinson University, said voters stay home when they can't see a connection between their lives and politicians.

"Most New Jersey voters aren't sure whether voting for Assembly and Senate candidates in their local area makes any difference to what happens in Trenton," Woolley said.