ATLANTIC CITY — A vote-by-mail ballot returned to the County Clerk’s Office was improperly handled and ended up in the hands of another would-be voter, according to a court certification from the deputy Atlantic County clerk Thursday.
The mix-up led the second voter, Atlantic City Councilman Jesse Kurtz, to receive a ballot that was already filled out with votes cast for Democrats Phil Murphy for governor, Councilman Frank Gilliam for mayor and George Tibbitt for City Council, Deputy County Clerk Michael Sommers said in a five-page affidavit.
“The most likely explanation for this mishap was that this office received a prior request for a duplicate ballot which occurred prior to Mr. Kurtz’s arrival and that the returned ballot was not properly segregated and was misplaced in the pile of ballots to be distributed to the future mail-in ballot requestors,’’ Sommer’s statement said.
Saying it’s never happened before, Sommers also outlined procedures for preventing future mix-ups.
“Our voting records indicate that as of Oct. 5, 2017, this office has processed 6,162 ballot applications inclusive of Vote By Mail and messenger applications,” the statement said. “There have been no other incidents or problems encountered by the County Clerk’s Office in the 2017 election process.”
The incident was brought to public attention by the Atlantic County Republican Committee,which asked the state Attorney General’s Office to investigate possible tampering of vote-by-mail ballots.
Kurtz, a Republican, has declined to comment.
Randolph Lafferty, an attorney with Cooper Levenson representing the Atlantic County Republican Committee, sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General George Cohen dated Monday that requested an investigation into alleged vote-by-mail ballot tampering.
According to the letter, the registered voter went to the Clerk’s Office to get a ballot for the upcoming election and received one that was allegedly already filled out.
The ballot was reported to the Clerk’s Office, and the voter was eventually given a “clean” ballot to use, according to Lafferty’s letter.
The Attorney General’s Office received the letter Tuesday, said Leeland Moore, spokesman for the office. Moore declined to comment on the letter or a possible investigation.