More than a week after Election Day, Burlington County announced Friday the winners of a few close local races and its final tallies after it had to hire 100 workers to hand count 20,931 mail-in ballots with missing bar codes.
In Moorestown Township, where council candidates had debated the handling of contaminated municipal drinking water, incumbent Republican Mayor Phil Garwood was ousted, but party control of the five-member council remained in GOP hands.
The top vote-getter for the three council seats up for grabs was incumbent Democrat Lisa Petriello, who unofficially had a 26-vote edge on election night when most of the 225,000 votes cast at polling places were reported by the county clerk's office. Her margin gained an extra vote when the mail-ins were counted this week and then grew by 58 more votes - to a final total of 5,563 votes - when the provisional votes were tallied.
The provisional votes are paper ballots cast by voters whose names are missing from the registration books at the polls due to relocation, name change, or some other reason. These are included in the final count if they can be verified later by election officials. The county clerk reported 2,302 provisional ballots were counted.
The mail-in ballots are also paper ballots, ones that residents can fill out at home and submit to the county clerk. Two years ago, the county purchased a new system and a scanner, according to County Clerk Tim Tyler, which allows those ballots to be recorded within a few hours. This year, special coding used to tabulate the votes was missing from the ballots, making them unreadable by the scanner, he said. As a result, those ballots had to be counted by hand.
In the Moorestown race, the other winners were incumbent Republican Deputy Mayor Victoria Napolitano and her running mate, Mike Locatell, a newcomer. They beat Democrats Kati Angelini and Amy Leis. Before the provisional votes were counted, Angelini was only 50 votes shy of capturing one of the seats. But that margin of loss more than doubled, to 109 votes, when the official results were finally calculated.
In another close contest, for two seats on the Hainesport Township Council, Republicans Frank Masciocchi and Leila Gilmore beat Democrats Natalie Schneider and Anna M. Evans.
And the contentious race in Delran Township ended with incumbent Democratic Mayor Ken Paris winning with a 107-vote margin against Mike Piper, his Republican challenger. The official vote was 3,969 to 3,862.