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Atlantic County District 3 Freeholder candidates Thelma Witherspoon and Andrew Parker.

Judge tosses Atlantic commissioner election spoiled by county clerk error

By David Wildstein, January 04 2021 5:44 pm

Update: Democrats announced on Monday evening that they will appeal this ruling.

The controversial election for Atlantic County Commissioner was thrown out by a Superior Court Judge today, triggering a do-over after County Clerk Ed McGettigan goofed and failed to mail the correct ballots to 544 votes in a race decided by just 286 votes.

Judge Joseph Marczyk declared a vacancy for the 3rd district commissioner seat, halting the swearing in of Democrat Thelma Witherspoon when the county board reorganizes on Tuesday.  Parkinson defeated Republican Andrew Parker, an Egg Harbor Township Committeeman, in the November 3 election.

Republicans sued to vacate the election, citing voters disenfranchised the McGettigan’s mistake.

A date for the special election has not been set, but Marczyk says it must be consistent with Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order postponing all elections until at least April 20.

The vacant seat was occupied by Democrat Ashley Bennett, who did not seek re-election.

Democrats may seek to hold a special election convention to fill the commissioner seat on an interim basis until the results of a new election are certified.

Marczyk’s order does not specifically prohibit Witherspoon from temporarily holding the seat.

“Thelma Witherspoon won this election fair and square. We will not let the voters be disenfranchised, and let taxpayers spend up to $100,000 for a new election, just because the Republicans are unhappy about the voters’ choice,” said Michael Suleiman, the Democratic county chairman.  “Accordingly, I directed our attorneys to immediately file an appeal.”

This story was updated at 7:44 PM with comment from Suleiman.

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