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Thelma Witherspoon. (Photo: Thelma Witherspoon).

Democrats to oppose Parker’s bid to block Witherspoon swearing in

By Nikita Biryukov, January 04 2021 2:05 am

Democrats in Atlantic County will urge Superior Court Judge Joseph Marczyk to deny Andrew Parker’s request that Democrat Thelma Witherspoon not be allowed to take the third-district county commissioner seat in a hearing Monday morning.

Witherspoon defeated Parker 15,034-14,748, a 286-vote margin, but County Clerk Edward McGettigan’s office mailed incorrect ballots to 554 voters.

Most of those ballots, 335, went to voters in Hamilton Township, who received ballots that did not include the county commissioner race, but 219 ballots that did went to voters outside of the district, prompting an election challenge from Parker.

In one brief, Witherspoon’s attorneys, Scott Salmon and Robert Herman of Jardim, Meisner & Sussner, P.C., argue the Republican’s bid to stop Witherspoon from being sworn in should be rejected because state law explicitly bars invalidating election results “due to any irregularity or failure in the preparation or forwarding of any mail-in ballots.”

“Here, there can be no question that the County Clerk did not print or mail accurate ballots to a small percentage of voters,” Salmon wrote. “However, at the outset, that is not a sufficient basis to overturn the election results absent evidence referred to above.”

They further argue Parker hasn’t established that the wrongly-mailed ballots changed the result of the election. After duplicate rejections and cures allowed by a court order, 214 Hamilton voters returned such ballots

Another 161 out-of-district voters returned their ballots, but the Democrat’s attorneys charged Parker provided no evidence those votes would have benefitted him.

“He assumes, and attempts to have this Court assume, that the results would have been different had everyone received the correct ballot. There is absolutely no factual or even circumstantial evidence for this position.”

In separate briefs, Herman and McGettigan argued the court should accept expert testimony on how the erroneous ballots could have affected the results, both arguing the judge should rely upon statistical analysis instead of attempting to intuit the impact of the tainted ballots.

Marczyk will hear arguments in the case at 9 a.m. Monday.  Tim Howes is representing Parker.

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