Sabatino-Falkenstein to ask for recount in Board of Education race: updated

Nov. 11, 2015JoAnn Sabatino-Falkenstein will ask for a recount in the race for three open seats on the Metuchen Board of Education, in which she trails her opponent Justin Manley by six votes for the third and final board seat.

“At the urging of many supporters, I will pursue the recount. Although the provisional ballots moved the point spread to six, many people would like to see the vote reconfirmed,” she told me in a quick update Wednesday.

At this point, all votes are in including machine votes, mail-ins and provisional ballots. Provisional ballots are paper ballots a voter must cast if there is a question about his or her eligibility. With the inclusion of the provisional ballots, which were officially counted earlier this week, Manley’s lead went from three votes to six.

It’s not clear when Sabatino-Falkenstein will make her official request, which has to go to a Superior Court judge. She has until Monday to ask for a recount.

Meanwhile, incumbent Aileen McGuire and Merrill Lunt are already guaranteed seats on the board based on their vote totals. The final open seat is what’s up for grabs between Sabatino-Falkenstein and Manley.

The numbers now look like this: McGuire 1,718; Lunt 1,438; Manley 1,276; Sabatino-Falkenstein 1,270.

The Middlesex County Clerk’s office is expected to formally update the voting totals this week, possibly today. (I called a few times Tuesday but staff was still working on certifying the counts).

Manley said he believes his lead will hold up in a recount.

“No one lost, only Metuchen won,” Manley said. “I am thankful for the support of the voters and that all of the candidates ran positive, issue-driven campaigns.”

Manley said he is “looking forward to working with the board and administration to continue their ongoing efforts and to begin to execute on the goals I laid out during my candidacy.

“It’s imperative that [the school district] move with pace to begin to address our space and growth needs to accommodate not only the growth we’ve seen in the past several years but what we know is coming with the changes downtown,” Manley said. “If during my term we can formulate a consensus and plan with community input on our priorities and prepare a referendum to fund those investments, it will be a success.

“Equally important to me is addressing the work environment in our schools for the teachers and updating technology education offerings as well as the technical assets needed to support a modern learning environment,” he said.

Update: This post has been updated to include information about Sabatino-Falkenstein’s decision to ask for a recount, and to include more comments from Justin Manley.

Update on Metuchen Board of Education race

Nov. 5, 2015: You’ll have to wait a bit longer to figure out if Justin Manley or JoAnn Sabatino-Falkenstein won the last of three open seats on the Metuchen Board of Education.

The results of the race were so close, with Manley leading Sabatino-Falkenstein by three votes, that it will come down to a count of provisional ballots. A provisional ballot is a paper ballot a voter must cast if there are questions of his or her eligibility to vote.

Metuchen collected 25 provisional ballots, which were sent in sealed bins to the Middlesex County Board of Elections. Staff rejected a total of five provisional ballots, Jim Vokral, administrator with the board of elections, told me Thursday.

Here’s where the real fun begins: Each of those rejections, and the accepted provisional ballots, are open to challenge. Those who wish to challenge must schedule a time to come into the board of election offices by Friday (Nov. 6).

Once the challenges are lodged Monday, the four Commissioners of the county Board of Elections (two Democrats, two Republicans) hold a public meeting Monday at 4 p.m. to review the rejections and those provisional ballots subject to challenges. The meeting will be held at the Board of Elections office at 11. Kennedy Blvd., East Brunswick.

This means even provisional ballots staff has already accepted could be overturned. For example, a person could present the board of elections with documentation that a voter who cast a provisional ballot that was already accepted doesn’t actually live in Metuchen. “If the Commissioners look at that and agree, one of those could be thrown out,” he said.

“At the end, all of the ballots that come out of this that are good, will be opened and they will be counted and added to the total we already have,” Vokral said. That could happen Monday night or Tuesday, he said. It depends on how many challenges come in, he said.

Once the whole process is finalized, the results will be handed over to the County Clerk who formally announces the results and posts them online, he said.

Metuchen Education Board race a prime example of why every vote counts (at least locally): updated

Nov. 4, 2015: Just another reminder that yes, every vote counts.

The only two local races in all of Middlesex County that have yet to be determined are the Metuchen Board of Education and the Sayreville Borough Council. I don’t know much about Sayreville except they had some sort of football scandal. I once fished a river over there but didn’t catch anything. Also, they have a Wawa.

But the Metuchen Board of Ed, now there’s a topic we can sink our teeth into.

The votes for the three open seats on the Ed Board came out like this, unofficially: incumbent Aileen McGuire with 1,499 votes; Merrill Lunt with 1,246 votes; JoAnn Sabatino-Falkenstein with 1,111 and Justin Manley with 1,088. Including mail-in ballots, Manley has a total of 1,268 while Sabatino-Falkenstein totals 1,265 — with Manley up by three votes.

What needs to happen now is a count at the County level of provisional ballots. These are ballots filled out by people who can’t figure out how to vote properly (or something). See here for a full explanation.

The County Board of Elections will review each provisional ballot and determine if it will count. It’s not clear how long this process will take. Jim Vokral, administrator for the county board of election, explained it to me:

The board gets sealed bins of provisional ballots the night of the elections and works to determine the eligibility of each ballot. Once all the eligible provisional ballots are established, the board will then count them for the whole county. This year, the board will start with four specific races that are very close, including Metuchen’s education board, Sayreville as well as the race for Legislative District 16, where incumbent Republican Assembly members Jack Ciatarelli and Donna Simon are being challenged by Democrats Maureen Vella and Andrew Zwicker.

“Depending on how many provisionals we get, how much research we have to do, we could be done any time from Friday, Monday, Tuesday,” Vokral said.

UPDATE 3:11 p.m. Nov. 4: Vokral told me Metuchen collected 25 provisional ballots but one was immediately rejected. The board of elections is now researching 24 provisional ballots from Metuchen to determine their eligibility. Stay Tuned!

Nothing like a little political drama to spice up the week!

This post has been updated to include information from Jim Vokral