Murphy and Sweeney see robust early voting system in near future

Good Friday morning!

I heard some doomsday predictions about how New Jersey’s election would be administered. But aside from occasional hiccups you typically see in elections, it wasn’t a disaster. The main problem is that vote counting in some places is taking a really long time, and that in some cases we still don’t know how many outstanding provisional ballots remain to be counted.

But it’s starting to become clear that universal vote-by-mail isn’t the direction that New Jersey’s Democratic leaders are thinking about for the future. At a press conference yesterday, Gov. Murphy endorsed early voting on machines. And in a phone call, so did Senate President Steve Sweeney. Even Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick has warmed to the idea.

Early machine voting wouldn’t be practical without electronic polling books, which won’t be cheap — about $25 million over the first three years based on the fiscal note on some early voting legislation from several years ago that didn’t become law. That’s not a lot in Trenton terms for lawmakers to appropriate if they actually like an idea.

Read more about it here.

CORONAVIRUS TRACKER: 2,104 newly-diagnosed cases for total of 247,219. 12 more deaths for a total of 14,603 (and 1,800 probable deaths)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: NJ for Biden State Director Nabila Baptiste, NJCAN’s Axel Owen, VFW’s Bill Thomson, AC Councilman Jesse O’Leary Kurtz. Saturday for Assembly Dems’ Gina Wilder. Sunday for Assemblymember Erik K. Simonsen, Catholic Healthcare Partnership of NJ President Sister Patricia Codey, lobbyist A.J. Sabath, Former Corzine aide Victoria Mayer

WHERE’S MURPHY: In Trenton for an 11 a.m. announcement and press conference

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We heard nothing today about any evidence. This kind of thing, all it does is inflame without informing. And we cannot permit inflammation without information.” — Chris Christie, on President Trump’s baseless claims that the election is being stolen from under him because votes are being counted

CLOSE TO CLOSED — New Jersey ‘close’ to announcing new steps to combat spread of Covid, by POLITICO’s Samantha Maldonado: Gov. Phil Murphy indicated Thursday that he’s preparing to roll out new statewide restrictions to combat the increased spread of Covid-19 in the state. “How close are we to doing something? Close,” he said in response to a reporter’s question during his regular briefing in Trenton. “We will be clearly taking action, and I hope it will be action that balances all the various challenges and interests that we have. But right now, we’ve had really good success with the hot spot teams.” Murphy did not offer any details as to what steps might be taken. Hot spot teams are working with local health departments to increase testing, contact tracing, community engagement and enforcement measures in areas with outbreaks. So far, those teams have been deployed to nine of New Jersey’s 21 counties, as well as to major population centers like Atlantic City, Elizabeth, Lakewood and Newark. While deploying hot spot teams will continue, Murphy said, “we collectively, all of us, think we need to augment that with some broader steps. It’s not either-or.”

NY WILL TAKE A PATH. PA WILL TAKE A PATCO — “New Jersey has legalized weed. Here’s why Pa. may take a different path,” by The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Wood: “Without Republican support, it’s unlikely that the Keystone State will follow anytime soon. ‘As long as we’re in the middle of a declared opioid emergency, we shouldn’t be legalizing another drug,’ said Jason Gottesman, spokesman for Pa. House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff … Gottesman said there is ‘no serious discussion’ among GOP legislators for a measure similar to the Garden State’s.”

‘BURNING APETITE’ — “So will Gov. Murphy smoke weed now that it’s about to become legal in N.J.?” by NJ Advance Media’s Brent Johnson: “That’s one of the questions Murphy was asked as he gave an afternoon radio interview late Wednesday. His answer: ‘It’s never been something for me,’ the governor told the reporter on 1010 WINS. ‘I don’t have a burning appetite to do it. But the social justice piece of this brought me to the table.’ (At least his answer included a pot pun, even if unintentional.)”

—“N.J. voters said yes to legal weed. But Gov. Murphy hasn’t called for immediate end to arrests,” by NJ Advnance Media’s Amanda Hoover: “The Attorney General could issue a directive for police and prosecutors to halt enforcement of marijuana laws. On Wednesday, Grewal said his office would soon issue new guidance to law enforcement … Asked why he has not pushed Grewal’s office, Murphy emphasized the attorney general’s previous statement. ‘I saw what the attorney general said and I hope there’s a lot of weight on the word discretion,’ Murphy said. ‘I do hope that in the spirit of what happened on Tuesday … and the attorney general has said this, to his credit, that the discretion is the word of the day.’”

Murphy: It could take a year before New Jersey begins recreational cannabis sales

IMMIGRATION  Released by New Jersey due to COVID, and immediately re-arrested by ICE,” by WNYC’s Matt Katz: “Of the more than 2,000 New Jersey state prisoners released Wednesday as a way to ease crowding due to Covid, 88 were immediately re-arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to the agency. New Jersey is considered a sanctuary state, but prison officials can notify ICE when inmates convicted of certain crimes are released. That’s how the historic mass-release on Wednesday became a boon for immigration agents, who immediately re-incarcerated freed prisoners it says were convicted of violent crimes or drug offenses. While some may be undocumented, others could be permanent residents who were deportable because of prior convictions. Immigration advocates want Governor Phil Murphy to totally ban the transfer of freed prisoners to ICE.”

THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU HAVE TO BUY YOUR PLAYERS LUXURIES LIKE WINDOWS — Returns show Murphys paid $209K in property taxes in 2019, lost $1.1M on Sky Blue, by POLITICO’s Carly Sitrin: Gov. Phil Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy paid more than $209,000 in property taxes last year on their home in Middletown and despite taking a $1.1 million loss on Sky Blue FC, the professional soccer team the governor co-owns, the family still ended up earning more than $2.7 million, mostly thanks to their vast array of investments. The Murphys also donated more than $13,000 in furniture to Drumthwacket, the governor’s mansion in Princeton, according to the couple’s 2019 state and federal tax returns which reporters were allowed to examine for four hours on Thursday. That’s substantially less than the $90,000 in furniture they donated in 2018.

IS AURA DONE? — “70K votes remain to be counted in LD25 contest,” by Insider NJ’s Fred Snowflack: “Any celebration can wait. It’s time for patience in Morris County. That was this morning’s take of Chip Robinson, the county’s Democratic chair. Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday mentioned how well Democrats were doing in two Morris races — two Legislative seats in District 25 and one freeholder seat. We are talking about only two seats in a Democratic-controlled Legislature and a mere one freeholder spot, but greater political significance is involved. In the recorded history of Morris County — a pretty long time — there has been only one freeholder and that came during Watergate.”

STATISTICS TEACHERS EMPHASIZE THAT’S NOT REALLY VERY MANY — “Nearly 150 kids and teachers caught COVID-19 at N.J. schools, state officials say as outbreaks increase,” by NJ Advance Media’s Kelly Heyboer: “Another 24 New Jersey students, teachers and staff were infected with COVID-19 while on school property in eight newly-reported in-school outbreaks, state officials said Thursday. The new cases bring the totals to 36 confirmed outbreaks at schools involving 146 cases since the school year began, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard … Despite the ‘second wave’ of coronavirus cases hitting New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy has said he remains relatively unconcerned about the rise in in-school outbreaks considering they represent a small percentage of the more than 3,000 schools in the state.”

—“N.J. unemployment numbers dip as state prepares another round of $300 payments

—“New Jersey’s pension bill has come due | Opinion

PASCRELL — “Federal watchdog probing Trump campaign’s use of White House: lawmaker,” by Reuters: “The U.S. Office of Special Counsel has opened an investigation into allegations that the Trump campaign’s use of the White House as an Election Day command center violated federal law, Democratic Representative Bill Pascrell said on Thursday. In a statement, Pascrell said the federal watchdog responded on Thursday to his call for a probe, telling him a special unit ‘has opened an investigation into these allegations to determine if the Hatch Act was violated.’”

CD2 — “New turnout numbers show no less than 60,567 uncounted ballots in NJ-2 race between Van Drew, Kennedy,” by New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein: “The least number of ballots still uncounted in New Jersey’s 2nd congressional district is 60,567, making the contest between Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) and Democrat Amy Kennedy still too close to call. Van Drew currently leads Kennedy by 9,452 votes, 144,949 to 135,497 … The 60,567 total includes only the four counties entirely within the 2nd district: Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Salem. The other four — Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Ocean — only have parts of NJ-2 and election officials have not yet released town-by-town numbers. Atlantic is the most thorough number so far. A total of 129,749 votes were cast there, and 116,657 have been counted.”

WHAT $110K BUYS — “U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew leading in race as storied Kennedy family runs into thicket of local Atlantic City politics,” by The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Amy S. Rosenberg: “Callaway was paid $110,000 and worked relentlessly, especially on Election Day, getting voters and ballots to the polls on Van Drew’s behalf. Kennedy defeated Van Drew in Atlantic County, but her margin was thousands fewer than other Democrats on the ballot in Atlantic County, including candidates for Sheriff, U.S. Senate and Atlantic City Mayor … Callaway said Wednesday he had no regrets about supporting Van Drew, though he said he did not support Trump. He was still angry about the way the Kennedy family treated him, both as it courted his support in the primary and sought out his help in winning votes … He said they viewed his involvement with their campaign during the primary as them doing him a favor by allowing him to associate with the Kennedy family, and that once they received his support in the primary, ‘They thought they owned it.’ ‘They wanted to view African Americans as butlers and maids,” said Callaway.”

PENNACCHO TO DEMAND INVESTIGTION OF TRUMP ADMINISTRATION — “U.S. attorneys for Fort Dix ordered to detail COVID-19 response; cases at prison top 200,” by The Burlington County Times’George Woolston: “A federal judge has ordered U.S. attorneys for FCI Fort Dix to provide details on how the prison has mitigated the spread of COVID-19 as cases inside the federal correctional facility top 200. The order, issued Tuesday by U.S. District Court Judge Noel Hillman, stems from a writ of habeas corpus petition filed by FCI Fort Dix inmate Robert Edward Whiteside. It comes one day after an Oct. 13 letter from Whiteside was filed in the case, claiming COVID-19 positive inmates had been transferred into his housing unit.”

—“Merkt loses bid for New Hampshire legislature

THE SHI HITS THE FAN — “Edison: 8 named after Postal Service investigation into racist campaign flyers,” by The Courier-News’ Nick Muscavage: “A United States Postal Service report has identified eight people, including township council and school board members, allegedly involved in creating and sending racist campaign flyers during a school board election three years ago. But some of those named claim the person making the allegations is politically motivated. The campaign flyers, which pictured board of education candidates, said, ‘Make Edison Great Again,’ while claiming Chinese and Indian residents are ‘taking over’ the township. Chandrakant Patel, owner of Chowpatty Restaurant and chairman of the Indian Business Association, spoke to U.S. Postal Inspector David Comer on Sept. 28 and alleged that six people came to his restaurant three years ago to work on the campaign flyers. Those alleged in the report who went to the restaurant are: Jerry Shi, a township Board of Education member whose face was pictured on the flyers Mohin Patel, a township Board of Education candidate who, as of Thursday, received 9,420 votes — the most of any candidate Ajay Patil, a township councilman Satish Poondi, a prominent Democratic attorney and a delegate for presidential candidate Joe Biden Shariq Ahmad, former chairman of the Edison Democratic Organization Raj Bhagia, who shares a township address with current Edison Democratic Organization Chairman and former assistant to Mayor Thomas Lankey, Mahesh Bhagia, Aloysius Dsouza Joseph Dsouza. Shi called the report a ‘flat-out lie’ and said Lankey should be called to testify.”

Woodcliff Lake residents file suit to block Jewish temple project,” by The Record’s Tom Nobile: “The Superior Court lawsuit, filed last week by Woodcliff Lake Citizens Against Overdevelopment, seeks to invalidate a settlement agreement between the borough and federal prosecutors, who intervened to protect the Valley Chabad from discriminatory land use. Prosecutors agreed to drop the case against Woodcliff Lake in exchange for the borough paying the Valley Chabad $1.5 million to help complete its 20,000-square-foot expansion on Overlook Drive. But the latest lawsuit claims that hundreds of residents, many of whom believe the project’s size would lead to overdevelopment in Woodcliff Lake, were denied input on the issue before the borough council approved the settlement in September … Federal prosecutors launched an investigation into Woodcliff Lake’s zoning practices at a time when the state Attorney General was probing neighboring towns in Mahwah and Upper Saddle River for discriminating against Orthodox Jewish communities across the state line in New York.”

—“Democrats on verge of taking [full] control of [Somerset]. county where Republicans once reigned supreme

—“Ridgewood voters OK moving all village elections to November

—“Hoboken approves fines for large home gatherings

—“Parent-hosted party blamed for Howell HS COVID closure

—“Howell Democrats lead mayor, council races in early results

—“GOP takes lead as more Monmouth County results come in

—“All eyes are on the White House, but local candidates in NJ are in state of suspense, too

—“New Gloucester VBM count narrows lead of Democratic freeholders

—“As he prepares to seek re-election, Fulop scores big wins in Jersey City

—“Why start from scratch when Mother Nature has already gone to work on Liberty State Park interior? | Opinion

‘YOUR HONOR, MY NAME IS VERY PROMINENT LAWYER, ESQ., AND I REPRESENT KOO KOO BANANA’ — “Cheech’s Own rebrands following Cheech Marin trademark infringement suit,” by The Courier-News’ Jenna Intersimone: “For six months, Cheech’s Own, a Somerville coffee company and cafe, was embroiled in a legal dispute with Richard ‘Cheech’ Marin and his company, Koo Koo Banana, over allegations of trademark infringement. Marin, half of the legendary comedy team Cheech and Chong and co-star of movies such as ‘Up In Smoke,’ ‘Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie’ and ‘Nice Dreams,’ alleged that Cheech’s Own’s use of his name was a ‘knowing, malicious, oppressive, fraudulent act, calculated to harm (Marin’s) brand and existing trademark’ and a ‘naked attempt to profit off Cheech’s name.’ Now, however, Cheech’s Own founder Steven Chiocchi, who has gone by the nickname ‘Cheech’ for almost a decade, finally can sip his coffee in peace. Following an out-of-court settlement in March, the four-year-old company, which opened a brick-and-mortar shop two years ago, officially rebranded as Lucid Coffee Co. on Oct. 26 and held a ribbon cutting on Oct. 30. Marin had no comment on the rebrand.”