It was late Tuesday night — hours after the polls closed for the primary elections — and some candidates still had yet to learn the final vote tally. That’s because municipal clerks in Monroe, Plainsboro, South River and Woodbridge, many of whom started their day at 5 a.m., clocked out without ever learning the unofficial results because of an issue with some of the voting machines.
“To work those kind of hours and not be able to give the candidates their results is frustrating,” Monroe Township Clerk Sharon Doerfler said.
In Monroe, four of the voting machines were printing illegible numbers that ran over the top of one another. Like every other municipality, Monroe’s poll workers received an emergency number to call in the event of a malfunctioning voter machine.
Monroe poll workers in Ward 1 District 1, reported such an issue at about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday during a test run. They were unable to get an immediate fix, Doerfler said.
“They knew there was a problem but didn’t have a part in stock,” she said of the Middlesex County Board of Elections, which is charged with the maintenance, storage and deployment of the machines.
Sylvia Engel, chairwoman of the county election board, confirmed Monroe’s story, saying that a small, failing motor in some of the printers caused much of the chaos. The 682 voter machines, which were purchased in 1998, have 6-year-old printers that accompany them, Engel said.
The motors have been on back order and should be arriving any day now, during what Engel considers the busiest maintenance season for the machines. “They are all maintained and programmed en masse and regular basis,” she said. “We were hoping that the parts would arrive before this election.”
Woodbridge was short 94 votes from one district when Township Clerk John Mitch decided to call it a night.This time, the machine would not print a tally sheet, Mitch said.
South River encountered a similar problem, with three of its 14 machines printing unreadable results, Borough Clerk Patricia O’Connor said.With only 12 votes missing from a single machine in one of the township’s 12 districts, Plainsboro also determined the culprit was a faulty printer, Township Clerk Carol Torres said.