Mercer County counts continue after scanner snafu
Election Day votes tallied, but thousands of mail ballots remain
By Friday afternoon, election officials had tallied ballots cast on Election Day, but thousands of mail and provisional ballots remained. (Daniella Heminghaus for New Jersey Monitor)
Vote counting continued in Mercer County Friday as officials raced to add thousands of uncounted mail-in ballots returned countywide to election result tallies after voting machine problems delayed counts on Election Day.
Between 13,000 and 14,000 mail-in ballots remained uncounted in Mercer County Friday afternoon. Officials will continue to accept, until Monday, mail ballots postmarked by Election Day. Ballots mailed by overseas and military voters must also be postmarked before polls closed Tuesday.
There are also roughly 4,100 provisional ballots that officials cannot begin counting until the vote-by-mail grace period ends. Some of those ballots may be rejected because the voters who cast them had already voted by mail or were otherwise ineligible to vote on Tuesday.
On Election Day, ballot scanners in voting machines across Mercer County failed, forcing election officials to pivot to a backup plan that saw voters manually deposit their ballots in machines for county officials to scan later.
While the snafu did not stop voters from casting their ballots, it did delay tallies of Election Day votes cast in the county, though most of those votes have now been canvassed (some could remain in voting machines).
A Superior Court judge on Thursday approved a request to open voting machines from the county’s superintendent of elections. That request came after reports of missing ballots in Princeton and Robbinsville. Those ballots have since been found, and save any surprises, the Election Day tallies are complete.
County officials have requested prosecutors investigate whether the issues were intentionally caused.
Capital City contest
In Trenton, Mayor Reed Gusciora holds a broad lead in his bid for a second term, leading Council President Kathy McBride 4,719 to 853. Councilwoman Robin Vaughn and Trenton Housing Authority Commissioner Cherie Garrette came in far behind with 576 and 557 votes, respectively.
It’s not clear how many of the mail-in ballots Mercer County has yet to tally were cast by Trenton voters, though they’re unlikely to change the outcome of the mayoral race. Nearly 80% of mail ballots counted so far went to the sitting mayor, who said he expects Trenton’s counts to extend into next week.
“All indications would be that the numbers would still hold up,” he said.
McBride and Vaughn, who each eschewed reelection to Trenton’s council to seek the mayor’s post, have repeatedly drawn criticism from top-ranking Democrats in the state.
Gov. Phil Murphy, Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez, and numerous other officials called on Vaughn to resign in 2020 after audio recordings of a council conference call revealed her calling Gusciora a pedophile and telling Councilman Joe Harrison, who appears to have been reelected, to perform a sex act on the mayor.
Gusciora is Trenton’s first openly gay mayor and was the first openly gay member of the New Jersey Legislature.
McBride drew fire in 2019 after she invoked an antisemitic trope during an executive council session. McBride apologized for her comments days later, but not before they drew condemnation from Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman.
“People from all walks of life in the city, from every background, it’s fairly common that they observe how dysfunctional this last council was, and they’re not going to permit that to happen again,” Gusciora said.
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