SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – Democratic State Assembly candidate Andrew Zwicker increased his lead over GOP incumbent Donna Simon by 10 votes Wednesday, but a final decision in the razor-edge-close 16th district race may not come until at least Friday, officials said.
Republican incumbent Jack Ciatarelli won re-election in the district and Democratic challenger Maureen Vella lost her bid to win a seat in the polling, which includes Hunterdon and Somerset counties as well as South Brunswick in Middlesex County and Princeton in Mercer County.
The real battle, however, is between Simon, who was appointed to the seat in 2011, and has won terms in two other elections, and Zwicker, a physicist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab.
As of early Wednesday morning, Zwicker led the assemblywoman by 29 votes, with all but provisional ballots left to count.
According to the boards of elections in the four counties, Middlesex and Mercer each had 51 provisional ballots, Somerset had 55 and Hunterdon had 34, for a total of 191 votes yet to count.
Hunterdon posted its share of those ballots Wednesday afternoon and increased Zwicker’s lead to 39 votes, 16,195 to Simon’s 16,156, with 157 left from the other counties.
Those votes will likely not be tallied until at least Friday, officials in those counties said.
The process with provisional ballots, according to Joe Gruch, a confidential aide to the Mercer County Superintendent of Elections, started today with the sealed ballots being counted.
The next step is for them to be verified to see if the voter is registered in the voting district where it was cast and that the voter met residency requirements, Gruch said.
From there, the ballots are either accepted or rejected (Hunterdon, for example, rejected seven of the initial 41 provisional ballots before accepting the 34 it allotted to the candidates and reported).
Once accepted, Gruch said the ballots are then opened and officially counted for the candidates and the results posted.
He said that should happen by Friday morning if all goes as planned.
Officials in Middlesex and Somerset counties said the same thing, estimating Friday as a possible time for the results to be known.
Gruch did caution that the process could take longer depending on the circumstances.
In the meantime, both Zwicker and Simon wait to see who will emerge victorious in this extremely tight race that could split a historically Republican district and stronghold.
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