MAYS LANDING — A Democrat candidate for Atlantic City Council in the hotly contested 4th Ward has challenged 60 mail-in ballots in the primary election for allegedly being sent to addresses that are not residential.
Surajit “Milton” Chowdhury presented his information to the Atlantic County Board of Elections Monday night, said Chairwoman Evelynn Caterson.
Five Democrats and three Republicans in the ward are vying for their party’s nod to be the official candidate in the November general election.
The board immediately pulled those ballots and sent them to Superintendent of Elections Maureen Bugdon for investigation, Caterson said.
Bugdon could not comment on the investigation, other than to say her office always responds quickly and thoroughly to any request for investigation by the board.
“We take voter rights very seriously,” Bugdon said.
She said New Jersey law is very specific about domiciles, and there are only a few exceptions to the requirement that voting materials be sent to residences.
The board cannot hold the contested ballots longer than 48 hours after the close of polls at 8 p.m. Tuesday. If no decision is made by the Superintendent’s Office by then, they will have to be opened and counted, Caterson said.
State law requires mail-in votes to be accepted up to 48 hours after the close of polls, as long as they are postmarked by election day.
Caterson also said 11 percent of the 640 mail-in ballots returned by unaffiliated voters were incorrectly filled out. The voters had cast ballots in both the Democrat and Republican races, while they were supposed to pick one party and vote for candidates in it, thus joining that party.
“I don’t know if it is the state instructions,” she said, but it happens every year. Caterson said it upsets her as all of the wrongly cast votes must then be thrown out.
Primary voters can only cast votes for candidates in one party in New Jersey. Unaffiliated voters can walk in to the polls and declare themselves either Democrat or Republican, but people who have already declared a party affiliation must change their affiliation at least 55 days before a primary to vote in the other party’s primary.