Provisional ballots may not be enough to put MacArthur back in the race.
With at least 6,400 provisional ballots still left to be counted, it’s looking unlikely — but not impossible — that incumbent Republican Tom MacArthur will be able to take back the 3rd congressional district from current front-runner, Democrat Andy Kim.
It will be early next week by the time election workers in two New Jersey counties finish counting the remaining ballots, and despite Kim declaring a victory on Wednesday, MacArthur has not conceded.
As of late Friday, Kim held a lead of 3,424 votes over MacArthur — 150,311 to 146,887. Those figures included mail-in ballots but not the provisionals.
After trailing the GOP congressman on Election Night, Kim pulled ahead late this week after the counties concluded counting mail-in ballots — 25,000 in Burlington, and nearly 31,000 in Ocean. A new state law allows up to 48 hours to count ballots postmarked by Election Day.
“It is an honor and a privilege to be the next congressman of the New Jersey 3rd District,” Kim said Wednesday to boisterous cheers from supporters when he claimed victory. “I’m so proud of this community and what we have put together, words right now can’t express to you what is going on in my mind right now.”
In addition to the mail-in ballots, about 6,400 provisional ballots still remain to be counted in both counties. Officials said they expected those votes to be counted by Tuesday. Provisional ballots are issued on Election Day for voters who experience discrepancies, such as their names not being on the registered voter list at the polls. This year, many voters who were registered to vote by mail and either didn’t receive the ballot or didn’t send it in were also given the option of a provisional ballot.
For MacArthur, it’s not over until it’s over.
“This has been a hard fought campaign and like Andy Kim, I’m ready to see it come to an end,” MacArthur said in a statement Wednesday. “I have always said that I will be guided by the voters of the district and there are nearly 7,000 more of them who haven’t been heard from yet. We must ensure that their votes – and all votes – are counted in a transparent way that protects the integrity of the election.”
MacArthur swept Ocean County, winning 16 of the 17 towns, taking 61 percent of the vote. In Burlington County, however, Kim had 59 percent of the vote. A town-by-town vote in Burlington County wasn’t available as of late Friday.
It will be an incredibly close finish.
Here’s our back-of-the-napkin math:
There were about 220,000 votes cast for the congressional seats in Ocean County — about 58 percent of them were in the 3rd district race. The rest were for the 2nd and 4th district races.
There are about 2,400 provisional ballots in Ocean County. Based on the district size, that is roughly 1,400 votes that could go to Kim or MacArthur. MacArthur got about 61 percent of the vote in Ocean County. If the same percentages hold up for the provisional ballots, he stands to gain about 850 votes.
In Burlington County, there were about 185,000 votes cast for congressional seats in the 1, 2 and 3rd districts and about 95 percent of them are for the MacArthur/Kim race. If the same percentage of 4,000 provisional ballots there go to that race, 3,800 more votes will be divided between Kim and MacArthur.
If MacArthur takes 40 percent of that vote as he has throughout the county, that would up his total by 1,500 votes.
Between the two counties, that could be another 2,500 votes — still shy of the 3,400 vote lead Kim has.
Two years ago, MacArthur took home about 53 percent of the vote in Burlington and 68 percent in Ocean.
The district stretches between Burlington County in the Philadelphia suburbs and Ocean County along the shore and has largely been held by the GOP for the past three decades.
Kim’s strength in Burlington County was part of a wave that will put Democrats into control of county government for the first time in 45 years. County Clerk Timothy Tyler lost his race to a Democratic challenger who carried nearly 60 percent of the vote.
“Everybody hates Donald Trump,” Tyler said Friday when asked what fueled the clean sweep of he GOP county ticket.
MacArthur backed Trump more often than any other member of the New Jersey congressional delegation, according to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.
He helped save the president’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, by crafting a compromise for states to opt out of ending preexisting-condition requirements for insurance companies. The provision enabled patients with chronic, ongoing illnesses to not be denied insurance coverage.
MacArthur, 58, is a former health insurance executive.
Kim, 36, who had never run for elected office before, was a civilian advisor to military leaders in Afghanistan and Iraq and national security aide in Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration.
If Kim’s lead holds up, he will become the first Korean-American to represent New Jersey in Congress.
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