Andy Kim declared himself the victor in the race for the third congressional district’s House seat a few hours after Burlington County mail-in ballots gave the race a swing of roughly 5,000, putting Kim ahead by 2,622 with only provisional ballots and mail-in ballots that will arrive Thursday uncounted.
Rep. Tom MacArthur did not concede.
“This has been a hard-fought campaign and like Andy Kim, I’m ready to see it come to an end. I have always said that I will be guided by the voters of the district and there are nearly 7,000 more of them who haven’t been heard from yet,” MacArthur said in a statement. “We must ensure that their votes — and all votes — are counted in a transparent way that protects the integrity of this election.”
The congressman’s figure there is more or less spot on when provisional ballots in Burlington and Ocean counties are added with mail-in ballots election boards in the district received on Wednesday.
There are 2,404 provisional ballots in the portions of Ocean County in the third congressional district, where MacArthur gets the bulk of his support.
That’s not great news for the two-term Congressman, as Burlington County Board of Elections Director Joe Dugan predicted earlier in the day that there would be between 3,000 and 4,000 provisional ballots in the bluer county that gave Kim his lead.
Even if there was an equal number of provisional ballots in both counties, it’s not likely MacArthur would be able to catch up to Kim without additional votes coming his way.
MacArthur performed only slightly better in Ocean County than Kim did in Burlington. The difference was less than 2%, and fewer votes were cast in Ocean overall.
The gap between the candidates’ vote totals could narrow if the provisional ballots came from municipalities that were guaranteed to give MacArthur landslide victories, but that’s just not the case.
Tom’s River had the largest share of provisional ballots votes, at 732. Brick was second with 450 ballots.
Those communities and others like Stafford, Berkeley and Lacey, which together accounted for another 652 of Ocean County’s provisional ballots, are certainly safe Republican areas, but there’s little reason to think MacArthur’s totals there will differ greatly form his countywide performance, given how the towns have voted historically.
MacArthur received 61% of votes in Ocean County.
Even if he won 70% of the votes in Ocean’s provisional ballots, Kim’s lead would be cut by less than 1,000 votes. That number
“He can say or do what he wants, but the numbers are the numbers. There’s no way,” Ocean County Democratic Chairman Wyatt Earp said. “Math is math. Real news is real news.”
Even if every single provisional ballot in Ocean County went to MacArthur — an unrealistic scenario, to say the least — Kim would still receive a boost from provisional votes in Burlington, where he’s won 59% of all votes counted so far.
State Sen. Troy Singleton said he thought the way in which MacArthur refused to concede was itself a sign that the congressman saw the writing on the wall.
“I think what you heard from the congressman, his idea of saying making sure every vote is counted, usually that’s a concession without a concession,” State Sen. Troy Singleton said. “He knows where the votes are that are still outstanding, and that’s not an area he’s going to do well in.”
It would appear then that the only hope for MacArthur is a surge in mail-in ballots on Thursday, the last day such ballots will be accepted, providing they were postmarked by election day.
There was no such surge on Wednesday, when about 250 mail-in ballots were returned in Ocean on Wednesday. In Burlington, that number was closer to 375.
Given how new the law that allows election officials to accept ballots past the close of polls is, operatives predict late ballot arrivals will taper off rather than surge on Thursday, but that’s no guarantee that thousands of mail-in ballots won’t arrive in Ocean County tomorrow.
So, despite Kim’s claim of victory and disadvantages MacArthur faces as of Wednesday night, the race remains too close to call.