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Elections board avoids move in middle of poll worker training, as landlord pays electric bill
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Elections board avoids move in middle of poll worker training, as landlord pays electric bill

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On Oct. 26 2020, ballot counting began at the Atlantic County Board of Elections' rented office space in Mays Landing. Chair Evelynn Caterson talks about the process the ballots go through as staff sort the ballots in the background during the "zipping and stripping" stage.

The payment was made just in time to avoid a power shutoff and an emergency move by the Board of Elections as election season heats up, officials said.

“The electric company said we will know more on Monday, but it did get a wire transfer,” county Administrator Jerry DelRosso said.

“We can confirm that electric service at the property currently occupied by the Atlantic County Board of Elections is not currently scheduled for service disconnection,” an Atlantic City Electric spokesperson said Friday evening. “We are continuing to work with the property owner regarding the status of this account. We make every attempt to keep our customers connected as the disconnection of electric service is our last resort.”

The forced move would have come as the board was training poll workers for nine days of early voting with new e-poll books and new voting machines, and as it prepares to begin picking up paper vote-by-mail ballots from drop boxes around the county.

Vote-by-mail ballots will be sent to voters by the county clerk Sept. 18, and the board will begin collecting them for processing and eventual counting Sept. 20.

DelRosso said Atlantic City Electric sent an email to county counsel saying everything is good until Sept. 20, and will be OK through the lease term to Dec. 31 if the wire transfer clears Monday.

“All I need is through the year,” said Board Chair Lynn Caterson. “Now we can calmly find a place forever.”

Caterson said she is relieved to avoid a rushed move of sensitive and bulky ballot scanners, computers and other equipment, as well as furniture and 140,000 paper mail-in ballots from the 2020 general election.

County Executive Dennis Levinson said it would have been “a yeoman’s job to have to (move) over the weekend, and extremely expensive.”

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Early voting starts Oct. 23 at six sites in the county. Election Day is Nov. 2.

Atlantic City Electric had given the owner, 5218 Property LLC of Brooklyn, New York, until Sunday to pay or face a shutoff of power.

The building owner could not be reached for comment.

The elections board first rented the 11,800-square-foot space from September 2020 through much of the year in preparation for the state’s first mostly vote-by-mail general election in November, which was ordered by Gov. Phil Murphy to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

It gave the staff room for social distancing and for handling the incredible number of paper vote-by-mail ballots the board received and counted.

The county has extended the lease four times, most recently through the end of the year, at a total cost of $239,610.50.

The most recent extension came at a cost of $85,585.

Previously, the board operated out of the renovated historic county jail in Mays Landing, a small stone structure where many offices were in former inmate cells. There was one meeting room, but it was nowhere near large enough for the extra staff needed in November 2020, let alone the additional space for proper social distancing.

The elections board is responsible for recruiting and training poll workers, receiving vote-by-mail ballots and counting them as well as counting paper provisional ballots.

The board will be training poll workers at the building next Saturday.

Michelle Brunetti Post

609-272-721

mpost@pressofac.com

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Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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