HOLMDEL, NJ - If Holmdel elections and elected officials are leaving you scratching your head, you are not alone. It's been a long year - and it's not over yet. It will be after final votes are counted on Tuesday November 12.
Earlier this year, incumbent Mike Nikolis was beaten in the Republican Primary by newcomer Chiung-yin Cheng Liu and former running mate Eric Hinds. It was the 'provisional ballots' that made the final call. The general election may mirror this result.
The general election thus far resulted in Cathy Weber netting 2108 votes. Coming in second was Prakash Santhana. He earned 2025 votes. Coming in third and fourth were Chiung-yin Cheng Liu and Eric Hinds at 2015 and 2000 votes respectively.
So Weber and Santhana won, right? So far, yes.
If Liu gets her wish, however, she may win a seat the same way she beat Nikolis in June. That is, by way of provisional ballots. To do so, she needs to close a mere 10 vote gap with Santhana.
Eric Hinds? He can win too. He needs to close the gap of only 25 votes with Santhana. He would also need to net more votes than his running mate. In the end, the numbers may track evenly for the candidates and the result is the same.
That said, this is Holmdel. With well over 100 provisional ballots reported to be outstanding, it is a guess with such a small difference in vote totals.
So, what is a provisional ballot anyway?
According to the Department of State:
Provisional ballots are paper ballots that are used at the polling place on election day under the following circumstances:
(1) If your registration information is missing or is incomplete in the poll book.
(2) You moved from your registered address to another in the same county and did not notify your local election officials.
(3.) You did not provide the required identification information on your registration form or you’re a first time registrant by mail in New Jersey and your identification numbers could not be verified and you did not show ID to the poll workers in the polling place. For your provisional ballot to count, you have until the close of business on the second day after the election to provide your county commissioner of registration with the required ID information. You will be given instructions at your polling place on where to bring the ID.
(4) There is a marking in the poll book that you applied for a Vote by Mail ballot, but you did not apply for one, you applied for one but did not receive it, or you received it but did not return it.
The looming specter of provisional ballots will determine if the vote stays as is or Liu repeats her primary performance and beats Santhana. While less likely, provisional ballots are such a high number they may return Hinds for a fourth term. Tuesday will tell the tale in what has become quite a politically bifurcated community.
Regardless of the outcome, with neither side garnering a mandate, consensus to work together may be the outcome. Along with an even keener appreciation that every vote truly counts.