Slammed by Sandy, N.J. counties seek more time to count ballots

Posted: November 22, 2012

Fourteen New Jersey counties, swamped with provisional and mail-in ballots in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, on Tuesday were granted more time to count.

Those counties, including Burlington, Camden and Gloucester, have until next week to certify the results of the Nov. 6 election.

That means a few close local races in towns such as Stratford, Laurel Springs, Delanco, Bordentown, and Moorestown will remain undecided a while longer.

"Election offices are bombed here" because of overseas and provisional ballots, Camden County Election Commissioner Robert Venuti said Tuesday. The county has yet to start counting those ballots, he said.

The Shore counties of Ocean, Atlantic, and Monmouth received extensions, while Cape May did not request one, according to a New Jersey Division of Elections spokesman.

Counties that did not request extensions will certify their results by Wednesday.

In the days leading up to the election, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who also is secretary of state and oversees elections, said displaced residents could vote in any county. The board of elections in that county would then mail the relevant ballots to the county where the voter was registered.

The accommodation created a potential discrepancy between the Election Day tally and the final result, leaving some races too close to call.

Two races in Camden County are separated by one vote with nearly 9,000 provisional ballots still uncounted countywide, said John Schmidt, an assistant to the county clerk.

In the Laurel Springs council race, Democrat Susan M. Di Gregorio trails Republican David Thatcher by one vote. In the Stratford council race, Republican Albert Adolf leads Democrat Democrat Frank Gagliardi by the same margin.

Schmidt said Camden County was scheduled to certify its results Tuesday.

"Sandy threw a wrench in every count," said Burlington County Clerk Timothy Tyler, but he added that he expected to certify all elections by Tuesday and deliver the results to the Secretary of State's Office by Wednesday.

Because the county is awaiting receipt of ballots cast in other counties by Burlington County residents who could not vote in their own towns, "we won't know how many of those there are until they get here," Tyler said.

The close unofficial counts of three township council elections could be reversed when provisional and out-of-county ballots are tallied, Tyler said.

Democrat Stephen Benowitz was the top vote-getter in Bordentown's council race, but Republican John Moynihan trails him by just 123 votes, Republican Michael Dauber trails Moynihan by 30, and just 14 votes separate Dauber from Democrat Kershaw Weston.

In Delanco's council race, Democrat Mike Templeton leads by a wide margin, but just 41 votes separate Republicans John Cianco from Thomas Lord.

In Moorestown, with more than 300 provisional ballots still uncounted, 10 votes separate second-place Democrat J. Greg Newcomer from third-place Republican Phil Garwood. Republican Pete Palko trails Garwood by 125.

Moorestown Township Clerk Patricia Hunt said the County Clerk's Office had originally told her it expected to have those extra ballots, which number more than 300, certified by Wednesday, "but now the county says it's not sure it can make that date." She said it could take until next Wednesday for all votes to be counted and the outcome certified.

Republican Victoria Napolitano, who won the most votes in the unofficial count, is unlikely to see her election reversed.

In Gloucester, election officials counted more than 1,400 provisional ballots. In the Woodbury Ward Three council race, Democrat David Swanson led Republican incumbent Thomas Louis by eight votes in the initial tally. The count of the provisional ballots extended his unofficial lead to 18 votes.

Gloucester is still receiving provisional ballots from other counties, according to the clerk's office, but those won't "be enough to overturn any elections," Stephanie Salvatore, the county superintendent of elections, said last week.


Contact Andrew Seidman at 856-779-3846, aseidman@phillynews.com or @AndrewSeidman on Twitter.

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