The big story locally on Election Day nearly three weeks ago was Avi Schnall’s upset victory over incumbent Assemblyman Ned Thomson. But there’s another story – one that hasn’t received the attention it needs – that was highlighted over the course of Election Day.
That story is that Lakewood voters and their clout are being clearly and blatantly suppressed by the Ocean County Board of Elections.
First, a little background. Each municipality in Ocean County is split into voting districts. These districts serve as polling places during voting seasons (with two voting machines per district), and each district has representatives for each political party at the County political conventions, with these representatives wielding significant power over their party’s decisions.
How many districts each municipality is divided into depends on how many registered voters they have – or at least that’s how it should be.
But it’s not that way at all. For years now, Lakewood has been getting the short end of the stick.
Lakewood has 59,549 registered voters, but only 43 voting districts. Brick has 58,592 voters but is given 57 voting districts. Toms River has 71,672 voters and is provided 63 voting districts.
Why does this matter? Because 1) fewer voting districts means longer lines on election day, making it more difficult for people to vote and certainly dissuading many from even trying to vote, and 2) it gives Lakewood representation at the County conventions that is far lower – and less powerful – than it should be.
You also can’t point to voter turnout as a possible reason why Lakewood is split into fewer districts. In 2022, Lakewood voting districts had the top eight most votes of all Ocean County municipalities – and 15 of the top 16 voting districts. In 2023, this past election, Lakewood had the top 14 voting districts.
In this past election, Lakewood had 27,066 votes cast and was provided a total of 91 voting machines. Toms River had 6,500 fewer votes but was provided 127 voting machines; Brick had almost 8,000 fewer votes, but was given 114 voting machines.
The obvious must be stated: the Ocean County Board of Elections is discriminating against Lakewood and its residents, keeping them from having the voice they deserve to have in Ocean County politics.