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Democrats seek election recount in Bedminster
BY JOE TYRRELL for the Star-Ledger 13 November 2004

Somerset County Democrats yesterday filed for a recount of election returns in Bedminster, where one mislaid absentee ballot gave Republican Kurt Joerger a late victory.

"There were some troubling aspects to that election, particularly in the endgame," said county Democratic Chairman Elia Pelios, who filed the recount application for Democratic candidate Allen Mass yesterday afternoon at the courthouse in Somerville.

A Superior Court judge will be assigned to consider the application and likely schedule the recount next week.

On Monday, county Clerk Brett Radi certified results giving Bedminster incumbent Republican Don Cross one seat with 2,166 votes. Joerger, recently appointed to fill a vacancy, took the other three-year term with 1,790 votes.

Joerger was tied with Mass at 1,789 until the county board of elections agreed to accept an additional absentee ballot. According to county elections Supervisor Janice Hoffner, election workers found the ballot two days after the Nov. 2 election, when they were counting separately filed federal ballots.

Because it had a return address in London, workers had misplaced the absentee ballot among the federal ballots, filed by residents currently overseas, according to Hoffner.

Democrats want that reviewed, although "it is what it is," Pelios said. That was not the only problem with vote-counting procedures, he said.

"I was concerned by the fact that the provisional ballot bags from seven of the nine voting districts were not sealed as the law requires," he said. "I want to be clear that I'm not alleging any wrongdoing, but voters using those ballots are supposed to have the same expectation of a secret vote as someone voting on a machine."

Democrats in two municipal races in Hunterdon County also have filed for recounts after election night errors in absentee ballots caused confusion about the outcomes. Certified results show Robert Ragozine losing a town seat by eight votes to incumbent Republican Robert Christenson.

In Raritan Township, Democrat Tom McGreevy trailed incumbent Republican Jerry Zemlachenko by 70 votes in the revised total.

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