Friday Facts and Figures is a weekly newsletter with data points, analysis, and commentary on the biggest policy debates in New Jersey and beyond.
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COVID-19 Cases: 249,380 | Deaths: 14,616
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
More than 4 million New Jerseyans voted in this week’s November 3 general election, representing the most votes cast in state history. As it stands, 67.1 percent of voters turned out, but all votes have yet to be counted. There are still outstanding provisional ballots, ballots dropped off in-person at polling locations, and late-arriving mail-in ballots (in New Jersey, all mail-in ballots are valid if they are postmarked by Election Day and arrive by November 10). New Jersey voters overwhelmingly supported Joe Biden over President Donald Trump, with the former Vice President receiving approximately 59 percent of the vote. The only House race yet to be called is in CD-2, where incumbent Rep. Jeff Van Drew currently holds a slim lead over Democratic challenger Amy Kennedy. [NJ Globe / David Wildstein]
Public Question No. 1
New Jersey is the latest state to legalize recreational cannabis, as voters overwhelmingly approved Public Question No. 1 with more than 60 percent of the vote. This is a huge win for social and racial justice in the Garden State, as Black and Latinx residents are disproportionately arrested for marijuana possession even though residents of color use marijuana at the same rate as white residents. It’s now up to state lawmakers to pass enabling legislation with governing rules and regulations for the new industry. “This is exciting, the Legislature has its marching orders delivered by the people,” said Amol Sinha, Executive Director of the ACLU of NJ. “We need to see implementation of enabling legislation as fast as possible and legislation that centers racial justice.” Voters in Arizona, Montana, and South Dakota passed similar measures to legalize marijuana, while voters in Oregon passed a ballot measure to decriminalize all drug possession. Needless to say, the War on Drugs was a big loser on Election Day. [NJ.com / Amanda Hoover]
On Wednesday, New Jersey released 2,261 people from state prisons and halfway houses under a first-in-the-nation law shortening sentences for inmates serving time during the COVID-19 pandemic. This represents more than 15 percent of the state’s prison population, and is the largest mass prison release in New Jersey history. The policy, known as the Public Health Emergency Credit Act, was passed earlier this year to acknowledge that social distancing is not always possible in prisons and that a prison sentence should not be a death sentence. Inmates with less than a year left on their sentence qualified for early release, except for those convicted of murder and some sexual offenses. The ACLU of NJ spearheaded this effort along with other racial justice organizations. [NorthJersey.com / Stacey Barchenger]
Get Covered NJ
In a huge win for workers and their families, Florida’s minimum wage will rise to $15 after more than 60 percent of voters approved Amendment 2 on Tuesday. The increase will phase in over the next few years, with the minimum wage increasing to $10 in September 2021 and then increasing by a dollar every year after until it reaches $15 in 2026. According to the Florida Policy Institute, this will raise the wages of more than 2.5 million workers, most of them women and people of color in the service and tourism industries. Congratulations, Florida! [Orlando Sentinel / Caroline Glenn]
This has been a big — and stressful — week for many of us. Do what you can to take care of yourself this weekend, and catch up on any sleep you may have missed as you watched the election returns or tirelessly refreshed your Twitter feed.
Pets of NJPP
The pets are back! Meet Louie, NJPP Crotty Fellow Marleina Ubel’s pup-in-law. Louie has an amazing name (duh), loves playing with his squeaky cookie toys, has a surprisingly deep growl, and has a bit of an underbite. He’s also super adorable, so thank you Marleina for sharing him with the world. Woof!
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