MAYS LANDING, N.J. The Atlantic County Board of Elections will examine provisional ballots Tuesday afternoon after a weekend in which Democrats accused Republicans of improperly canvassing voters who filed those ballots.
Republicans, meanwhile, launched allegations of their own Monday, with the county Republican chair asking the state attorney general to investigate Democrats he said had improperly signed up voters for mail-in ballots.
Two races hang in the balance of the provisionals - the Atlantic City mayor's race, in which Republican Don Guardian holds a 247-vote lead over incumbent Democrat Lorenzo Langford, and the First District Assembly race, in which Republican incumbent John Amodeo holds a 287-vote lead over Democrat Vince Mazzeo, the Northfield mayor and owner of a fruit and vegetable store.
There were 1,164 provisionals submitted in the district, 518 of them in Atlantic City. Provisionals are issued when a voter's registration cannot be verified or, more frequently, when the rolls indicate a request for a mail-in vote.
The meeting's original announced Friday date was abruptly postponed Thursday because of a stated "lack of quorum." The two Republicans said they could not attend.
The state timetable for 2013 sets Nov. 12 as the meeting date for all counties and allows two adjournments before Nov. 18.
Jim Schroeder, chairman of the county Democrats, accused Republicans of stalling to allow canvassing in Atlantic City and Pleasantville for information that might disqualify provisional voters.
He likened that to voter suppression, and said he heard complaints that the investigators said they were from the Board of Elections. He said the teams of canvassers were concentrating on places with minority voters.
"They were not going into Linwood, not going into Margate," Schroeder said. "You are not permitted to engage in activity in minority communities that is not in other communities. We would fight to count every vote."
Republicans said they were doing nothing wrong. The provisional voter list was released to both sides Friday.
Mark Padula, head of the GOP in Atlantic City, where the apparent upset victory of Guardian has shaken up the city on both sides, said it was well within both parties' rights to investigate ahead of the board meeting.
"The Democrats cry voter suppression," he said. "That's not what it's all about at all. We want to verify those people were in fact the people who cast the votes."
County GOP Chair Keith Davis, meanwhile, wrote the state attorney general accusing Democrats of disguising mail-in ballot applications inside a petition for an increase in the minimum wage. "These activities may have led to the unusually high number of provisional ballots in Atlantic City," the letter said.
Atlantic City has a history of close elections, controversy over mail-in and provisional ballots, and elections that do not get settled on Election Day.
"It's amazing how lopsided the vote for mail-ins and provisionals has been in the past," Davis said. "We want to make sure the election has integrity and [Guardian] is protected."
By law, the results must be submitted by Nov. 20.