By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
MAYS LANDING – Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Joseph Marczyk Monday night vacated the Atlantic County commissioners District 3 race won the Democrat Thelma Witherspoon and ordered a special election against Republican challenger Andrew Parker III.
In his 30-page ruling, Marczyk ordered the special election at a future date in a race marred by a balloting snafu by the Atlantic County Clerk’s Office. Hamilton Township’s Witherspoon Parker, of Egg Harbor Township, 15,034 to 14,748, a margin of 286 votes.
But because of the clerk’s office error, some 328 Hamilton Township ballots did not have District 3 race on it, but should have. The judge ruled that was enough to vacate the race and order the special election.
“In short, there were sufficient legal votes rejected to change the results pursuant to NJSA 19:29-1(e) as [Witherspoon’s] margin of victory was 286 votes,” Mendez said in his ruling. “Given the number of voters disenfranchised by virtue of the defective ballots, the court concludes the integrity of the election was compromised and [Parker] has met the statutory requirement for successfully contesting the results of the election.”
In a statement to Front Runner New Jersey.com Monday night, Parker said he was now looking forward to the special election.
“My campaign for freeholder — now commissioner — has never stopped,” Parker said. “We have the best-run county in the State of New Jersey and I am hopeful that once we have a fair special election, my message will connect with voters and we will prevail.”
Witherspoon, who was in North Carolina Monday to attend a family funeral, had hoped to have been sworn in as a commissioner on Tuesday. She said her attorneys plan to appeal.
“I’m still fighting and I’m going to appeal,” Witherspoon said in a phone call with Front Runner New Jersey Monday night. “My lawyers will be in court [Tuesday] morning. I could have understood if the decision was done prior to certification. For this to be done technically two months after the election, I didn’t expect that. There is a process.
“Of course I was disappointed [by the decision]. I still have fight. I’ve never seen anything like this. This unprecedent. It is [Parker’s] right to contest it. I don’t agree with the judge’s decision.”
Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Michael Suleiman said in a statement the special election will be costly to redo a race he said Witherspoon won “fair and square.”
“We will not let the voters be disenfranchised, and let taxpayers spend up to $100,000 for a new election, just because the Republicans are unhappy about the voters’ choice,” Suleiman said. “Accordingly, I directed our attorneys to immediately file an appeal.”
Atlantic County Republican Chairman Keith Davis told The Press of Atlantic City the fault likes with Democratic County Clerk Ed McGettigan and the defective ballots, which will now be corrected.
“We look forward to a fair contest in a special election where ballots are mailed correctly and everyone’s vote is counted,” Davis told The Press.