SOMERVILLE, NJ - Nearly one month after the July 7th New Jersey Primary, and following a seven-day extension granted by a state Superior Court judge, the results of the election have been fully counted, according to Jerry L. Midgette, Somerset County Election Board Administrator.
This was an historic election on many levels including process and results, said Midgette. As to process, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Governor issued Executive Order 144 (2020) creating for the first time in New Jersey a hybrid election consisting primarily of voting by mail. There were a reduced number of polling places made available in each municipality for ADA-accessible voting machine and provisional ballot voting exclusively, he said.
Despite the changes, turn out was higher than usual, with 61,174 votes counted, or 25.5 percent of the electorate;.there are 244,095 registered voters in Somerset County. Over 54,000 Vote-by-Mail ballots were cast and over 7,900 Provisional Ballots were cast at the polls. For various reasons, the Election Board rejected 1.6% of the Vote-by-Mail ballots and 3.1% of the Provisional Ballots, according to Midgette.
Also, for the first time, a Ballot Drop Box was located in each of five (5) municipalities throughout the county for the convenience of voters to drop off their Vote-by-Mail ballots. Over an eleven (11) day period, 5,008 Vote-by-Mail ballots were dropped off in these boxes. That represented over 9.2% of the total Vote-by-Mail ballots cast and over 8% of the total votes cast in this election, according to Midgette.
Additionally, a new court-ordered Signature Verification process was implemented for this primary election, which provided voters an opportunity to correct any signature defect on their voted ballot before the Board of Elections could reject it. Consequently, a Cure Form was sent to 205 voters which they had to fill out with the required identifying information, sign and return to the Election Board no later than 2 p.m.. on July 30th. A total of 94 voters returned the form with the required information and thus their ballots were subsequently accepted and ultimately counted. This represented a Cure Rate of 45.9%.
Another first for this primary election was that all Vote-by-Mail ballots received by the Election Board up until July 14 and postmarked no later than Election Day (July 7) were considered timely and counted. In previous elections, the timeframe for accepting timely postmarked ballots was limited to only 48 hours after Election Day. As a result of this new seven-day time frame, the Election Board received an additional 10,000 Vote-by-Mail ballots during this period. This represented 18.4% of the total Vote-by-Mail ballots cast in this primary election and 16.1% of the overall ballots cast, according to Midgette.
Although one certified ADA-accessible voting machine was setup in each of the 37 designated polling sites throughout the county, only five (5) voters actually utilized this option. Notwithstanding, it was a necessary option made available to any registered voter who needed to cast their vote using the ADA-accessible voting machine, Midgette said.
There were several critical lessons learned from conducting this first-time hybrid election in a COVID-19 environment, according to Midgette.
"As we state and local election officials begin preparations for the November 3rd General Election, we expect to benefit from our shared experiences gained from conducting this primary election," he said..
The following is a listing of the candidates, with vote totals in parenthesis:
Somerset County Freeholders:
Incumbent Republican Freeholders Brian Levine (19,315) and Brian Gallagher 19,414) will be opposed in November's election by Democrats Douglas Singleterry (35,411) of North Plainfield and Paul Drake of Hillsborough (35,085).
Somerset County Surrogate:
Republican incumbent Frank Bruno (19,583) will be opposed by Democratic candidate Bernice Jalloh (35,745) of Franklin Park.
12th Congressional District:
Democratic incumbent Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman D-12th (10,709) will run for reelection in November against GOP challenger Mark Razzoli who received 3,014 votes.
United States Senate:
Incumbent Sen. Corey Booker, D-NJ (33,580) was challenged for the Democratic nomination by Lawrence Hamm of Montclair (4,759), with five Republican candidates seeking the GOP nomination to run against the Democratic nominee in November: :Patricia Flanagan of Lawrenceville (4,524); Natalie Lynn Rivera of Merchantville (818); Hirsh Singh of Linwood (3,596); Rikin Mehta of Chester (10.388) and Eugene Anagnos of East Hanover (136).
President Donald Trump (18,337) ran unopposed in the Republican Primary; Democratic voters overwhelmingly chose former vice president Joe Biden (32,244) over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (6,250).
The Somerset County Board of Elections office is currently not open to the public due to the Coronavirus. However, staff can be reached by phone at 908-231-7084 on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The office is located on the first floor of the Somerset County Administration Building at 20 Grove St., Somerville.
For more information, go to the Board of Elections website at http://www.co.somerset.nj.us/elections or contact us at (908) 231-7084 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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