With all the qualified mail-in ballots counted as of Wednesday afternoon, Elissa Malespina leads Deborah Engel in the race for South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education by 123 votes — with just over 1,400 provisional ballots yet to be tallied.
“There were 990 provisional ballots voted on in Maplewood and 492 provisional ballots voted on in South Orange,” said Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin on Wednesday afternoon. “The process now begins on verifying the provisional ballots that will be counted by November 20th.”
Once all vote-by-mail ballots postmarked through November 10 were counted, the County could begin to count the provisional ballots — those cast in person on the day of the election. The election must be certified by November 23.
Susan Bergin and Courtney Winkfield lead the vote count with 10,928 and 10,739 votes, respectively. The fifth candidate, Melanie Finnern, garnered 5,822 votes. (Kamal Zubieta ran unopposed to complete a term on the 9-seat Board of Education; she garnered 11,791 votes.)
Reached for comment on November 5, Malespina wrote, “I fully support the deliberateness of the county’s approach and I’m grateful for all the officials and ballot counters working hard to ensure that everyone’s votes are counted. I look forward to seeing the final count and thank everyone who came out to vote.”
“I am grateful to all those with the county that continue to count ballots in this unprecedented election,” said Engel on Wednesday. “Every vote matters, and we must remain patient while the counting is completed. I wish my fellow candidates well as we continue to wait for the results, and I thank everyone in our community for being so engaged during this election season.”
Asked for comment last week, the Bergin-Winkfield ticket replied, “We fully support the County Clerk’s commitment to count every vote and are happy to wait for final results. We are grateful that our message of Collaborate, Belong, Thrive resonated with so many South Orange and Maplewood neighbors and are humbled to have earned their votes. We look forward to the final count and will issue a further statement at that time.”
Finnern said she wished all candidates the best, “and [I] hope to see some significant change within our school district.”