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

Judge orders sampling-size partial recount in Atlantic freeholder race

In race where 381 votes separate two candidates, Mendez tells election officials to randomly select 4% of total ballots and see where that leads

By David Wildstein, December 11 2020 12:02 pm

A judge in Atlantic County today ordered a partial recount in a close race for Atlantic County freeholder, telling election officials to randomly select 4% of the ballots cast in the November election – about 5,300 — to determine how far off a hand-count is from what was reported from optical scanners.

The final count in the race for two freeholder-at-large seats put Republican incumbent John Risley just 381 votes ahead of his Democratic challenger, Celeste Fernandez.  The final vote was 66,427 to 66,046.

The Democratic incumbent, Caren Fitzpatrick, ran 3,034 votes ahead of the other GOP candidate, Somers Point Councilman James Toto.

Election officials urged Judge Julio Mendez not to force a hand count of 143,474 ballots cast in last month’s general election.

Less than two-tenths of one-percent separate Risley and Fernandez.

A state-mandated audit of votes in Gloucester County showed a less than one percent difference between the optical scanners and the hand-count, although none of 14 bins of ballots sampled involving around 8,500 votes was 100% accurate.

Mendez scheduled the partial recount to begin on December 15 and be completed no later than next Friday.

“The Court holds that the scope of the recount shall include an additional 4% of randomly selected ballots, to be split into two groups of 2%,” Mendez said in his decision.

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