Martin Owens, of Mays Landing, deposits his ballot into a drop box Tuesday at the old courthouse downtown.

{child_flags:featured}Work to do after New Jersey’s first election by mail


Staff Writer


The state’s first mostly vote-by-mail primary election is over, but the counting continues, and officials and politicos are warning the state has a lot of work to do before it can handle a vote-by-mail presidential election.

“The statewide voter registration system was not ready,” said Cape May County Clerk Rita Fulginiti. “There were too many problems to rely on the data to send out ballots to all active voters.”

She is hoping for a mix of machine voting and mail-in voting in November.

Clerks’ offices around the state reported frequent crashing of the system, and incorrect information provided to them about voters. Clerks rely on the system to keep track of voter histories, addresses and other data needed to get proper ballots to voters.

Delays in getting results also are a concern, said Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Michael Suleiman.

“We’ve got to figure out why it’s been so slow,” Suleiman said, adding he knows there were machine problems and perhaps a reluctance to spend the money on overtime needed.

Luckily, there were no Atlantic County races close enough to keep people waiting on pins and needles for results.

Democratic candidates in the 2nd Congressional District primary race conceded to presumptive winner Amy Kennedy shortly after the polls closed Tuesday night. Kennedy then immediately called for party unity to beat U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd, this fall.

In the Atlantic City mayoral race, with about 1,000 city votes counted by late Tuesday night, Mayor Marty Small Sr. was significantly ahead of his closest competitor Pamela Thomas-Fields, with about 60% of the vote to her 30%.

At that time, just under 10,000 of the 45,000 ballots received county-wide were counted.

During the last presidential primary election in the state, in 2016, just 39,213 votes were cast in Atlantic County, according to the state Division of Elections.

Small declared victory Wednesday, but Thomas-Fields has not conceded.

With about 4,400 city votes counted by Friday afternoon, Small remained ahead with 64.4% of the vote to Thomas-Fields’ 30.1%.

For Tuesday’s election, one of the two scanners Atlantic County had for reading paper ballots broke down, officials have said. And there were problems with the remaining scanner reading some Atlantic County ballots. It read some folds as votes, resulting in 1,200 votes originally being thrown out as overvotes.

The problem was fixed Friday, Board of Elections Chair Lynn Caterson said, and the votes were retallied. The corrections did not change any outcomes, she said.

But fixing the problem slowed down the process. The board was only able to count about an additional 1,000 votes, going from about 28,000 counted at the end of Thursday, to just over 29,000 counted by Friday afternoon.

There are about 6,000 additional provisional votes still to count, Superintendent of Elections Maureen Bugdon has said. People who physically went to the polls Tuesday filled out paper provisional ballots.

By election night, Cape May County had received 18,568 mail-in ballots, and an estimated 2,500 provisional ballots were cast at the polls Tuesday, Fulginiti said.

In 2016, a total of 18,600 votes were cast in the primary in Cape May County.

County Boards of Elections are still receiving ballots and will until a week after the close of polls, as long as they are postmarked by Election Day.

John Froonjian, executive director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University, said the expansion of vote-by-mail did seem to increase participation.

“That many votes tells me that you saw a lot of non-typical primary voters,” Froonjian said. “Usually in primaries it’s just the party activists, people on the committees, in unions or organizations that endorse who are motivated to vote in a primary.”

Many more casual primary voters participated this time, Froonjian said.

“They may have just wanted to express themselves,” he said. “There is a lot of passion, whether you are pro- or anti-(President Donald) Trump. A lot of frustration. A lot of voters are looking for any excuse to vent feelings or express themselves.”

The participation level in the November presidential election is likely to be high as well, he said.

“In many ways, this election is going to be a referendum on Donald Trump,” Froonjian said.



Contact: 609-272-7219


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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