Some 3,211 voters from three Princeton districts who cast their ballots at the municipal building may end up disenfranchised if the ballots are not recovered, as could up to 835 Robbinsville residents who voted at the Mercer County Library.
The actual number of missing ballots was not immediately clear; the New Jersey Globe reported only the number of voters in each of the four affected districts, not the number of votes that had actually been cast.
Dominion Voting Systems programmers had traveled to Mercer County on Election Day when an error related to the machines’ optical scanners prevented the ballots from being counted, The Western Journal reported early Tuesday.
“There is a slot on the top of the scanner, and voters can vote and are voting manually,” Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello said then.
The ballots were then to have been transported to a central location — the Board of Elections — where they would be manually counted in accordance with a contingency plan officials put in place after the Dominion machines stopped working.
“This allowed our election to go forward, and we took advantage of that fail-safe measure yesterday,” Covello said. “We were able to bring all of the ballots back to the Board of Elections, where that bipartisan commission processed the ballots’ high-capacity scanners at their central location. Every vote was counted.”
Except for the ones that weren’t.
“Robbinsville Township was contacted by Mercer County Election officials at approximately 5 p.m. today and were informed that the ballots of one of our districts had gone missing,” Robbinsville Township Mayor Dave Fried wrote in a statement on the township’s website Wednesday evening.
“The fundamentals of Democracy is that every vote would be counted.
“Clearly, this has yet to happen in Robbinsville, as approximately 11% of our residents’ votes have yet to be safely delivered and counted. We’re working with the County, which is in charge of our elections, but please know we will not rest until we get to the bottom of this unconscionable mishap, and we will not consider the 2022 election over in Robbinsville until every single ballot is counted and done so securely.”
“The ballots are reviewed by Dominion, they work together,” Covello said. “We pre-test, so we’re going to find out where exactly the problem lies.”
Covello reported the situation to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, asking that it “investigate as to whether this scanning problem occurred based on an error or whether something was intentionally done to create chaos and distrust in the election system,” according to the North Jersey Media Group.
At the time — before the ballots had been reported missing — she said that elections officials were “not suspicious of any specific wrongdoing.”
The missing ballots did not appear to be enough to affect any races for federal offices. Democrats in both U.S. House races in the district held comfortable leads with most of the votes counted Thursday morning, according to The Associate Press. Neither Sen. Bob Menendez nor Sen. Cory Booker were up for re-election this year.
Some local races, however, were still in play.
“A race for the Robbinsville school board, where 103 votes separate Peter Oehlberg and Christopher Emigholz, could be affected by the lost ballots,” the Globe reported. “So could a Princeton school board contest where 67 votes separate Deborah Bronfeld and Rita Rafalvovsky.”
It was possible, the Globe reported, for the missing ballots simply to have been “misplaced at the Board of Elections office,” as records indicate that they had been delivered as they should have been.
It was not immediately clear what recourse Mercer County voters would have if the missing ballots are not recovered and counted.
**By George Upper