Despite Glitches, “All Votes Will Be Counted”
By Donald Gilpin
Despite some delays in voting, delays in counting the votes, and concerns throughout Mercer County as voting machines failed and voters had to complete ballots manually on Election Day, November 8, Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello assured residents that the vote tally would be fair and thorough. No results were available at press time Tuesday evening.
“It’s disappointing that the machines didn’t work, and it’s going to take longer than usual,” she said in a phone conversation late Tuesday afternoon, “but I have full confidence that it will be a reliable vote count. We’ll count them all.”
The county clerk’s office is investigating the problem, “how it occurred and what took place,” Covello said. “It’s a problem between the voting machines, the scanners, and the printer that prints the ballots.” Dominion Voting Systems and other IT professionals are also working on the problem, she noted.
Covello stated that, starting at 8 p.m. last night, when the polls closed, the bipartisan Board of Elections, two Republicans and two Democrats, would be counting all ballots that have been received so far — including early voting, mail-in, provisional, and those voted manually on Tuesday. Additional mail-in ballots may arrive and be counted in the coming days, as long as they were mailed by November 8.
Workers at the Community Park School polling location on Witherspoon Street reported that the first hours of voting early Tuesday morning were problematic, as the machines malfunctioned, and workers had to ask voters to fill out ballots manually and insert them into the machines, though they could not be scanned. Many voters were frustrated as lines built up, but later in the day the manual voting seemed to be proceeding smoothly with a moderately brisk turnout of voters.
Voting was also proceeding smoothly at the polling location at the Princeton Municipal Building in the early afternoon.
Not all voters, however, were confident that their votes would be tallied accurately. “How do I know that my ballot is going to be scanned?” said Richard Romanski, who voted at the Suzanne Patterson Center on Monument Drive.
Romanski, as instructed by poll officials, filled out a paper ballot on Tuesday morning and dropped it into a slot in the scanner, and was told that it would be scanned into the machines later.
“No wonder there are so many questions about electoral integrity,” Romanski said. In a follow-up email he noted his concern that his ballot “was no longer a secret ballot and the process was open to electoral abuse and fraud.”
Hanging in the balance for Princeton voters is the election for Princeton Public Schools Board of Education (BOE), with five candidates —incumbents Debbie Bronfeld, Susan Kanter, and Dafna Kendal and challengers Margarita “Rita” Rafalovsky and Lishian “Lisa” Wu — competing for three seats on the BOE.
Also on the ballot is a race for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 12th Congressional District between incumbent Bonnie Watson Coleman, Republican challenger Darius Mayfield, and Independent C. Lynn Genrich, as well as a contest for two seats on the Mercer County Board of Commissioners.
Mia Sacks and Michelle Pirone Lambros are running unopposed for re-election to two available seats on Princeton Council. There are no statewide or Mercer County questions on the ballot and no municipal questions for Princeton voters.