070820_nws_election

On July 7, voters bring their last-minute ballots to the Atlantic County Board of Elections drop box in the lobby of the Old Courthouse in Mays Landing. A handful of voters came in during lunchtime to quickly drop off their ballots.

{child_flags:featured}{child_flags:breaking}Postal glitch adds ballots in Atlantic

{child_byline}MICHELLE BRUNETTI POST

Staff Writer

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MAYS LANDING — The Atlantic County Board of Elections voted Friday night to accept 37 vote-by-mail ballots the U.S. Postal Service said it received by primary day July 7 but mistakenly postmarked July 8.

The board handled the issue at its meeting to review signature problems on a last batch of vote-by-mail ballots, and to begin counting about 6,000 provisional paper ballots filled out by those who went to the polls on Election Day.

As of Thursday in Atlantic County 41,241 vote-by-mail ballots had been counted of about 45,000 cast, said board Chair Lynn Caterson. The board had not begun counting provisionals by 7 p.m.

In the contested Atlantic City Democratic primary for mayor, incumbent Marty Small Sr. has about 64% of the vote, while challenger Pamela Thomas-Fields has about 31% and Jimmy Whitehead about 5%.

Under state rules, ballots needed to be postmarked on or before July 7 to count, so the board had to get an opinion from the state Attorney General’s Office to consider accepting the 37 ballots they voted Friday.

The Attorney General’s Office said the board could use its discretion, Caterson said. If it believed the ballots had been delivered to the Postal Service on time, it could accept them.

“I feel those ballots should be counted for the election,” said Democratic Board Secretary John Mooney. “I don’t believe it’s the fault of the voter. The Postal Service has had a lot of rocky roads in this election.”

“What’s mind-boggling is they were all interspersed with ballots postmarked July 7,” said Republican Commissioner Mary Jo Couts.

On July 8, the board had picked up several trays from the Mays Landing post office containing hundreds of ballots, Caterson said. All but 37 were postmarked July 7.

Those postmarked July 8 were put aside as ineligible for acceptance, she said.

“We didn’t know at that time” that there was a problem, Caterson said.

It wasn’t until a letter arrived Monday from Mays Landing Postmaster Dwayne Holmes that the board realized those ballots probably were incorrectly postmarked.

“On the morning of July 8, 2020, the Postal Service’s Eastern and Northeast Areas became aware of a number of ballots located at Postal Service delivery units for the July 7th New Jersey primary election that did not have postmarks,” Holmes wrote. “These ballots were postmarked at the delivery units with a July 8, 2020, date and were subsequently delivered to election officials on July 8.

“Based on the Postal Service’s operational processes, we believe ballots located at a delivery unit on the morning of July 8, and delivered later that same day, would have been received by the Postal Service on or before July 7, 2020.”

Caterson said she has written a letter to Holmes asking for more information on how widespread the problem was, where the unmarked ballots came from and other details, but has received no response.

Holmes could not be reached Friday night.

There were also problems in June with vote-by-mail ballots filled out by voters being returned to them, rather than delivered to the Board of Elections. Couts was one of the voters who got her ballot back.

That mix-up was due to Postal Service staff feeding them into scanners improperly and reading the voters’ address rather than the board’s, according to Assistant County Clerk Mike Sommers.

The board on Friday night expected to count Atlantic City provisional ballots first, since there is a contested mayoral primary there.

It did not expect to count the provisional ballots from Hamilton Township, where there is a tightly contested Republican primary for Township Committee. The processing of Hamilton Township ballots was held up by problems with the Statewide Voter Registration System, Caterson said.

Superintendent of Elections Maureen Bugdon collects all provisional ballots, and her staff checks to be sure they have been cast by properly registered voters, and that the voter hasn’t also cast a vote-by-mail ballot. But her office relies on the SVRS, which has crashed and had various problems throughout the primary process, election officials have said.

In Cape May County, Clerk Rita Fulginiti said all 20,360 vote-by-mail ballots have been counted and added to the tally on the county website. Turnout in the county for the election was 28%, high for a primary.

The Board of Elections in Cape May County has scheduled the counting of about 2,500 provisional ballots for July 22, Fulginiti said.

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Contact: 609-272-7219

mpost@pressofac.com

Twitter @MichelleBPost

NJ Primary Results 2020 as of July 13

As of 4:30 p.m. on July 13, 31,625 of an estimated 45,000 ballots cast in the July 7 primary had been counted in Atlantic County. Atlantic County numbers are updated to July 13, but not other counties.

County Race Candidate Party Votes
Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small D 3,326
Atlantic City Mayor Pamela Thomas-Fields D 1,627
Atlantic City Mayor James Whitehead D 243
Atlantic City Mayor Thomas Forkin R 403
Atlantic County Sheriff Eric Scheffler D 15,985
Atlantic County Sheriff Joseph O'Donoghue R 11,029
Atlantic County Surrogate Stephen Dicht D 12,991
Atlantic County Surrogate Levi Fox D 2,877
Atlantic County Surrogate James Curcio R 11,174
Atlantic County Freeholder Caren Fitzpatrick D 15,660
Atlantic County Freeholder Celeste Fernandez D 15,701
Atlantic County Freeholder John Risley Jr R 11,213
Atlantic County Freeholder James Toto R 10,876
Atlantic County Freholder D3 Andrew Parker R 2,187
Atlantic County Freholder D3 Thelma Witherspoon D 3,184
Barnegat Township Township Committee Alfonso Cirulli R 1,668
Barnegat Township Township Committee Joseph Marte R 1,662
Barnegat Township Township Committee Charles Cunliffe D 1,644
Barnegat Township Township Committee Peggy Houle D 1,691
Cape May County Freeholder Elizabeth Casey D 5,504
Cape May County Freeholder Brendan Sciarra D 5,285
Cape May County Freeholder Will Morey R 6,624
Cape May County Freeholder Jeffrey Pierson R 6,535
Lacey Township Township Committee Nicholas Juliano R 1,980
Lacey Township Township Committee Bill Stemmle D 1,286
Lakewood Township Committee Michael D’Elia R 4,805
Lakewood Township Committee Hector Fuentes R 4,632
Lakewood Township Committee Harold Herskowitz R 1,391
Lakewood Township Committee Ray Coles D 2,110
Lakewood Township Committee Mordy Gross D 1,977
Little Egg Harbor Township Committee Ray Gormley R 1,632
Little Egg Harbor Township Committee John Kehm R 1,603
Little Egg Harbor Township Committee Gabriel Franco D 1,273
Little Egg Harbor Township Committee Shaun Moran D 1,264
Lower Township Mayor Christopher South D 1,323
Lower Township Mayor Frank Sippel R 1,455
Middle Township Township Committee Bob Jackson D 987
Middle Township Township Committee Timothy Donohue R 1,091
Ocean County County Clerk Scott Colabella R 39,146
Ocean County County Clerk Kathy Russell D 31,413
Ocean County Freeholder Joe Vicari R 38,731
Ocean County Freeholder Helen Dela Cruz D 31,398
Ocean Township Township Committee Ken Baulderstone R 1,019
Ocean Township Township Committee Rita Kopacz D 567

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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