Bergin & Winkfield Enjoy Solid Lead, But Determining 3rd Full-Term Board of Ed Seat Could Take a Week or More

by Mary Barr Mann
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With other races attracting lopsided vote tallies in South Orange and Maplewood, the only hotly contested local race in 2020 is for Board of Education, where one candidate is running unopposed to fill out a term — but five candidates are vying for three full-term seats.

The Essex County Clerk’s website posted results at 5:36 p.m. on November 5 that showed Susan Bergin and Courtney Winkfield with commanding leads at 10,654 and 10,469 votes, respectively. (Kamal Zubieta ran unopposed to complete a term on the 9-seat Board of Education. As of November 5, Zubieta had garnered 11,424 votes.)

Reached for comment on Thursday, the Bergin and Winfield 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.”

Meanwhile, per the County Clerk’s website, Bergin and Winkfield were followed in third place by Elissa Malespina with 8,037 votes. Malespina’s lead over Deborah Engel has stretched from 9 votes on November 3 to 77 votes today, per the County Clerk’s website. Melanie Finnern was in 5th place with 5,623 votes.

The top three vote getters win seats on the Board of Education.

Meanwhile, a breakdown of votes by towns provided by the Maplewood and South Orange township clerks (see below), confirmed Bergin and Winkfield’s commanding leads but showed a different total for Engel and Malespina, with Engel leading Malespina by 38 votes. (The township results were both dated November 5: 12:03 p.m. for Maplewood and 12:08 p.m. for South Orange. All results are unofficial.)

A representative of the County Clerk’s Office explained that they will continue to collect ballots postmarked by election day through November 10. At that time the County will then begin counting provisional ballots — those cast in person on the day of the election. Provisional ballots need to be counted by November 21 and the election must be certified by November 23.

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.”

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