BELMAR —Monmouth County is urging state officials to conduct a recertification of election software provided by a vendor, following discovery of a discrepancy in the vote count for the Nov. 2022 mayoral election in Belmar.
Former Belmar councilman Jim Bean said he discovered an apparent double count of 311 votes in results reported by the county for the borough’s mayoral race. The county elections board reported that 2,512 votes had been cast overall, but the separate vote counts for the two candidates on the ballot totaled 2,823.
The election resulted in a change of administration in Belmar, with Democrat Gerald A. Buccafusco unseating Republican Mayor Mark Walsifer, 1,467 to 1,356. A single write-in vote was also reported, bring the total reported vote count to 2,824. Those numbers remained on the county election site results page as of Friday morning.
While the discrepancy did not appear to affect the outcome, Mr. Bean said he found it concerning and reached out to Monmouth County Clerk Christine Hanlon, even filing a request for information under the state’s Open Public Records Act [OPRA] in late November.
Ms. Hanlon confirmed the discrepancy in an email to him on Wednesday, Mr. Bean said, and attributed it to an error in software used by the county’s election vendor ES&S [Elections Systems & Software].
According to a statement issued by Ms. Hanlon’s office, Monmouth elections officials are now coordinating with the New Jersey’s state Attorney General and Secretary of State to “ensure the integrity of the voting process.” They are also recommending a recertification requirement when voting software is updated by election vendors.
Katina Granger, a spokesperson for ES&S, has issued the following statement:
“At Monmouth County’s request, ES&S recently reviewed the county’s election data, which revealed that a technician inadvertently loaded votes into a reporting module twice in error. Typically our software blocks this from happening. Unfortunately, a human error by ES&S in a July software reinstalment missed the step that would have flagged the mistake. This anomaly is isolated to Monmouth County. The integrity of elections are ultimately protected by a series of checks and balances, and we’re grateful for the review that revealed this human error. ES&S pledges our support to work hand-in-hand with Monmouth County to ensure all necessary steps are taken to ensure election accuracy.”
Mr. Bean told The Coast Star Friday that it is his understanding that ES&S has informed the county that an “internal audit” had caught the error. However, he believes the county should not rely on that assurance.
“ES&S software and machines failed Monmouth County,” Mr. Bean said. “How can we trust that their explanation is even true … there needs to be an investigation and a hand count.”
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