100% doesn’t mean 100% — why NJ vote tallies may confuse you
Many races on the Nov. 2 ballot have been called, but the actual vote counting doesn't quit for a while across the Garden State.
With races that appear still too close to call, there may be some confusion among members of the public who are tracking these races, since every county can report their live election results in a different way.
"As far as we're concerned, everything is unofficial until the very last eligible vote is counted," Beth Thompson, administrator of the Hunterdon County Board of Elections, told New Jersey 101.5.
Like in other counties, a count of 100% of the votes on Hunterdon County's website doesn't actually factor in every ballot cast, just those cast live on machines on Tuesday — not early voting, not vote-by-mail or dropbox, and not provisional ballots.
"We know we have close to 700 provisionals, and we won't even be able to canvass those until we know that every eligible vote-by-mail ballot has been accounted for," Thompson said.
In the race for Bergen County Clerk, Republican Bridget Kelly appeared to top incumbent Democrat John Hogan by a small margin, if you looked at only the county's website. But results announced by the Associated Press and shared by other media outlets gave Hogan an 8-point win. The clerk's office noted that the "100% figure" didn't account for ballot-casting methods beyond in-person Election Day voting.
Mail-in ballots postmarked by 8 p.m. on Nov. 2 are eligible to be counted if they're received by 8 p.m. on Nov. 8. Counties are also required to accept mail-in ballots with no postmark date as long as they're received within 48 hours of the end of polling.
After those votes are counted, county boards of election can move on to provisional ballots from folks who showed up at the polls but couldn't successfully cast a vote.
"Provisional ballots — that's not new, but what is new is we had early voting this year, where you can cast provisional ballots prior to official Election Day," said Ocean County Clerk Scott Colabella.
Colabella noted that each of New Jersey's county clerks can decide how election results are presented to the public.
In specific spots, true votes from Election Day are still waiting to be counted. On Wednesday night, Union County was still reporting on just 419 of 431 districts.
Nicole DiRado, administrator for the Union County Board of Elections, said select poll workers on Tuesday night failed to remove the "result stick," or USB, from voting machines, or pulled it out before results were completely collected.
"Now we have to harvest that data from our voting machines," DiRado said. "We got a court order to do that because immediately after the machine is closed, the machines are impounded."
To dispel any rumors, DiRado added that New Jersey residents should know that vote-by-mail ballots and provisional ballots are not only counted when Election Day results are close — every vote counts, no matter what.
"We count every single vote every single time," she said.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.