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The race for control of the Somerset County freeholder board remains too close to call and no winner will be declared until provisional and vote-by-mail ballots are counted on Tuesday.
Democrat Melonie Marano leads Republican incumbent Pat Walsh by 341 votes – 35,180 to 34,839. That number has remained unchanged since early Wednesday, when all 265 districts in the county were tallied.
When elections officials meet officials meet on November 12, they must count 982 vote-by-mail ballots and approximately 1,800 votes that were cast by paper provisional ballots.
To be clear, there are no assurances that all of the more than 2,700 outstanding ballots will be counted at all. It is expected that some ballots will be challenged for deficiencies and not counted at all.
Of the 70,019 ballots already counted, Marano leads by less than one-half percent, 50.22%-49.73%
Since the total number of uncounted ballots will remain undetermined until Tuesday’s meeting of the Somerset County Board of Elections, it is impossible to know how many votes are still uncounted.
It is also not immediately clear how many of the uncounted ballots are from Democrats, Republicans or unaffiliated (independent) voters.
It could be as much as 2.38% of the total votes cast in the 2019 general election.
But based on the estimated votes remaining – again, not necessarily a real number — Republicans would need to win slightly less than 56% of the uncounted votes in order to maintain their 3-2 majority on the freeholder board.
Republicans had a 5-0 majority going into the 2018 election, when two Republican incumbents were unseated.
Democrats won the Somerset County Sheriff’s race.
Darrin Russo, a former Franklin Township police lieutenant, defeated North Plainfield Chief of Police Bill Parenti by 2,589 votes, 52%-48%.
Russo won on his second try.
In 2016, he won 49% against five-term incumbent Frank Provenzano. Provenzano did not seek re-election this year.
Democrats have not controlled county government since 1965.