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Atlantic County Commissioner John Risley. (Photo: Nikita Biryukov for the New Jersey Globe)

Updated: Atlantic GOP freeholder ahead by 370 votes after all VBM and provisional ballots counted

Witherspoon leads Parker by 286 in tainted District 3 freeholder race

By David Wildstein, November 16 2020 8:25 pm

A Republican freeholder in Atlantic County has a 370-vote lead after all vote-by-mail and provisional ballots were counted in a race that could come down to 820 cure letters that are due back by November 18.

John Risley, a three-term incumbent, leads Democrat Celeste Fernandez, 66,393 to 66,023, in the race for an at-large freeholder seat.

Democrat Caren Fitzpatrick has won re-election to the other at-large seat on the Board of Freeholders.  She has 67,573 votes.

It’s not clear if Fernandez will seek a recount.

There is no path to the other GOP freeholder candidate, James Toto, to win.  Toto has garnered 64,528 votes.

In the District 3 freeholder race, Democrat Thelma Witherspoon is ahead by 286 votes against Republican Andrew Parker.

That race is likely to end up in court after 554 voters in Hamilton Township received ballots that did not include the District 3 freeholder race.

Atlantic County Clerk Ed McGettigan, a Democrat, messed up the printing of ballots and Republicans are widely expected to ask a judge to order a new election.

The GOP has already called on McGettigan to resign.

Witherspoon and Parker were facing off for the seat of Freeholder Ashley Bennett, who instead unsuccessfully sought Democratic Party support to run against Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) in the 2nd district.

Cure letters are sent to voters whose mail-in ballots had potential defects, like unmatched signatures, offering an opportunity to repair the issue and have the vote counted.  A total of 604 cure letters have been returned so far.

In some cases, cure letters were not mailed until November 16, leaving it up to the campaigns to follow up and make sure voters are not disenfranchised.

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