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new jersey department of environmental protection  


Living with the Future in Mind
Goals and Indicators for New Jersey's Quality of Life
First Annual Update to the Sustainable State Project Report 2000

Indicator 18

Additional  Good Government Indicators

17 - Knowledge of Government

Voter Turnout

Percent of registered voters casting ballots in statewide general elections: Decreasing

  Things to think about 

In countries where voting has only recently become a privilege, voter turnouts are very high: for example, 92 percent in Uzbekistan and 91 percent in Kazakhstan.

Voter turnout varies substantially, depending on what offices are up for election.In elections where candidates are on TV and widely known, such as for governor or president, voter turnout has been fair to good. However, in elections for local office - the elections that often affect us the most - voter turnout is dismal. 1999 saw the lowest voter turnout in recent history.



Voting is the fundamental way that we exercise our right to self-government. Voter turnout is the basic measure of how many of us are exercising this right. Through voting, we express our desires and set our priorities for less poverty, more jobs, a cleaner environment, less crime, and better education. When we vote, we fulfill an opportunity that few people have had throughout history, and for which people in this country and others have fought and died. Turnout for national (and gubernatorial) elections has declined only slightly. However, turnout for legislative/local elections has declined dramatically, reaching a record low turnout of just 31 percent of registered voters in 1999.


Voting is about economics. It puts into government the decision-makers who will promote job growth, fight for our social values, and commit themselves to ensuring that our economy is the foundation of our social and environmental health.


Not voting leaves decisions about our water, air, parks, forests, wetlands, open spaces, and hazardous materials in the hands of other people, sometimes those who have a vested or financial interest in the outcome. By voting, we can act to ensure that decisions about the environment are in the best interest of all New Jerseyans, instead of that of a vocal or influential minority.


When we vote, we exercise our most fundamental right as citizens of a democracy. A decline in voting may signal a negative change in how invested we are as citizens of a common state or country, and in how much of ourselves we are willing to give to build a common future. By voting, we participate in a public dialogue about New Jersey that brings us together and makes us a more unified society.

Knowledge Gaps

This indicator only measures the percent of registered voters who vote. It does not take into account people who are eligible but not registered. It does not take into account the significance of recent increases in the number of voters due to automatic voter registration initiatives, such as the program run by Motor Vehicles Services. We interact with our government in many other ways besides voting, including through campaign contributions, letters to newspapers, and direct conversations. In the future, it will be worthwhile to create measures of these interactions.

Data Source: NJ Department of Law & Public Safety

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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Modified: April 27, 2007

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