Polls now closed in N.J., Pa.
The final votes are being cast in Pennsylvania and New Jersey this evening as polls close at 8 p.m. on both sides of the Delaware River.
Just how many voters came out on what was a beautiful autumn day remains to be seen. In New Jersey, where a gubernatorial election dominated the ballot and shaped up to be a referendum on incumbent Gov. Chris Christie's presidential ambitions, turnout was reportedly "steady" in some counties.
In Pennsylvania, it might be a different story. With only judge retention questions and local races like Philadelphia district attorney and controller on the ballot, one city election observer told philly.com Monday that turnout could be "pathetic." That meant in the 10 percent range.
Go to philly.com's elections page for the latest tweets from reporters around the region and results every race in both states once the polls close.
Temperatures were in the low 40s and it was still dark when Evelyn and Thomas Cannon of Cherry Hill pulled up to the Church Road Civic Association in Cherry Hill to cast their ballots about 6:05 this morning.
"We are on our way to our church," as Evelyn Thomas explained why they were ready to vote so soon after the doors had opened.
Indeed, polls in Pennsylvania and New Jersey opened early this morning for those voters who braved wintry weather to enter ballot booths on this off-year Election Day, which some observers believe may contribute to low turnout in both states.
New Jersey's gubernatorial race is the most watched race in the region, with Christie and Lt. Gov. Kimberly Guadagno heavily favored against the Democratic challengers, state Sen. Barbara Buono for governor and running mate Milly Silva for lieutenant governor.
Barring the greatest of upsets, the question most asked by political pundits is how big Christie's victory margin will be and what it means to his presidential aspirations in 2016. And the most pressing ballot question was whether New Jersey should raise the minimum wage with a constitutional change to allow it to adjust annually with the cost of living. Also up for election in the Garden State are all 40 state Senate seats and 80 General Assembly seats.
Indeed of a small sampling of about a dozen voters this morning in three South Jersey towns, none said they were voting for Buono. All were voting for Christie - and that included a few Democrats. It's not unusual in New Jersey where moderation usually reigns among its 5.5 million registered voters. Though Democrats outnumber Republicans by a solid margin, the largest block of voters - more than 2.5 million - are unaffiliated.
Some voters, such as Evelyn Cannon, of the Cadbury retirement community in Cherry Hill, Camden County, did keep their votes to themselves.
"I always vote for the candidate that has the heart of the people," was all she would say.
But Cannon was voting for a wage hike from the current $7.25 minimum to $8.25 that would include yearly increases matched with the Consumer Price Index.
"I think the minimum wage should have been raised a long time ago," Cannon said.
Cheryl Lofland of Charles Street in Palmyra, Burlington County, was at the polls at the borough's Community Center on West Broad Street by 6:20 a.m. She was motivated by both the gubernatorial race and local races.
Although she was in favor of the Democratic-backed rise in minimum wage, she was in favor of GOP candidate Christie - even though he opposes the wage hike.
"I went with Christie because he seems like he's doing a good job," Lofland said. "He seems like he gets stuff done even though people stand against him."
As for the minimum wage, she said: "I think it should go up. The government is beating us up. Us poor, little people can't keep up, we can't get ahead."
And, in nearby Riverton, Marjorie Beck, 58, was also voting for Christie.
"I'm a Democrat, but he showed leadership in a crisis," Beck said, referring to Hurricane Sandy. "I think we need a leader like that."
However, she did not vote for the minimum wage hike.
"It does not belong in the constitution," Beck said.
Election buzz in and around Philadelphia is expected to be relatively tame, with officials from political watchdog Committee of Seventy predicting turnout will hover around a "pathetic" 10 or 11 percent.
Still, the races to watch are that for City Controller, which will see incumbent Democrat Alan Butkovitz facing Republican challenger Terrance Tracy, and that for District Attorney, with incumbent Democrat Seth Williams squaring off against Republican hopeful Daniel Alvarez. There are also vacancies for city Court of Common Pleas and Municipal Court judges, as well as for one state Superior Court judge.
At one polling place in Southwest Center City, just five voters came in the first half hour polls were open, Judge of Elections John Pcsolar said. It was a sharp contrast, he said, to last year's presidential election, when people were lined up out the door and about 100 voters cast their ballots in 50 minutes. This time, poll workers are expecting a slow day.
"We all have our reading material," he said. The judicial contests, Pscolar said, don't typically attract much interest.
Babette Josephs, a former state legislator and now a Democratic committeewoman in the voting division, said there was a lack of news coverage about the races.
"Nobody writes about the election," she said. "Then they reproach everyone for not showing up."
Another factor contributing to the likely low turnout in Philadelphia was the lack of television ads, said Ellen Chapman, a judge of elections in Center City. At her precinct, two voters arrived in the first hour. Chapman said she wasn't expecting a big turnout, but hoped people would show up to the polls.
"District attorney and controller and judge are very important and affect us more directly than governor does," she said.
Meanwhile, two Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices face what some believe to be uncharacteristic retention votes. Chief Justice Ron Castille, a former Philadelphia district attorney, and Justice Max Baer are up for another 10-year term on the state's highest court, but are reportedly on shaky ground following some recent tumultous years for the court.
Those with Election Day questions or concerns are encouraged to call the Committee of Seventy's Election Protection Hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683).