New Jersey Primary Results In Limbo Due To Unsealed Mail Ballots

The fate of approximately 1,900 mail ballots from Atlantic County, New Jersey, hangs in the balance as a judge decides their validity in a congressional primary election. These ballots were prematurely unsealed, prompting a legal battle over whether they should be counted.

On Friday, Superior Court Judge Michael J. Blee will hear arguments regarding the 1,909 mail ballots cast in both the Democratic and Republican primary elections. The Associated Press reported that these ballots were opened roughly a month before the primary, instead of the permitted five days prior.

The dispute could impact the Democratic primary in the 2nd Congressional District, where businessman Joe Salerno holds a narrow lead of about 400 votes over attorney Tim Alexander, according to unofficial results.

The mishap occurred when election workers added timestamps to the inner envelopes containing the ballots, a process intended to improve tracking. However, the machine used for this task was still programmed to unseal the envelopes, resulting in the premature opening. Creed Pogue, a Democrat on the Atlantic County Board of Elections, emphasized that the ballots were not removed from their envelopes at the time.

Pogue argued that the mistake was innocent and should not disenfranchise voters, especially given the lack of evidence for malicious intent or tampering. “We should, therefore, make sure these ballots are counted and the wishes of the voters known,” he said.

During the election board’s meeting, Pogue and the other Democratic member voted to accept the prematurely opened ballots, while the two Republican members opposed. This deadlock has led to the current legal proceedings.

Atlantic County Republican Committee Chairman Don Purdy expressed skepticism, suggesting the unsealing was deliberate since it continued over several days. “I’m not saying to throw these ballots out. I’m saying the election process was compromised,” Purdy stated, stressing the need to acknowledge and rectify the issue.

The state attorney general’s office noted that state law does not provide guidance for local boards on handling prematurely opened inner envelopes and has requested the judge to resolve the election board’s tie.

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