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Vote-by-mail shouldn't delay NJ results

From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
It's very likely the New Jersey election will be the closest of the races this evening. We could be in for a long night and possibly be up in the morning and not know the results.

But don't count as a factor the increase in vote-by-mail/absentees, according to state elections officials. 

In 2005, New Jersey did away with needing a reason to obtain an absentee ballot. It also changed the name from absentee, which connotes needing to not be in the state, to vote-by-mail to alleviate confusion.

The state issued 185,000 vote-by-mail ballots, and as of now 140,000 have been returned, according to Bob Giles, director of the New Jersey Division of Elections.

The Corzine campaign, for one, has been pushing black voters, in particular, to vote absentee through a Web site called, NJVoteFromHome.com, which was created by the state party.

But Giles said the increase hasn't been just attributable to Democrats.

"It's been embraced by both campaigns," Giles said.

In, the last gubernatorial election in '05, about 91,000 New Jerseyans voted by mail. In 2008, more than 280,000 voted absentee.

Counties began counting absentees this morning, and voters have until 8:00 pm ET, when polls close, to get ballots back to their county offices.

"For the most part," Giles said, "there shouldn't delay -- or not by a dramatic amount," particularly since there are only 45,000 absentees that are still out there and haven't been returned.

Still, because of a potentially close election, results might not be known until late in the evening -- or later. Remember that the last Republican to win the governorship was Christie Todd Whitman -- and she won by fewer than 50,000 votes in '93 and '97.

Back in 1981, Republican Tom Kean beat Democrat Jim Florio by just 1,797 votes -- after a recount. That was the last time there was a recount, by the way.

Translation: This is a Democratic state, and when a Republican wins -- or really has a shot -- it's CLOSE.