The investigation into the voting machine snafu in Mercer County continues, and it may be several days or longer before we know exactly what happened, and why those machines were not able to tabulate votes on Election Day, forcing poll workers to hand out sharpies and paper ballots to voters.

Mercer County Clerk Paula Covello, an elected Democrat, said efforts continue to get to the bottom of the voting problem.

“Not only are we having it investigated internally, but we already have reported it to criminal authorities because we want to make sure that nothing nefarious took place in this election,” she said. “I have asked for a criminal investigation. We have to obviously act.”

The system was tested

She said when the voting machines were inspected two weeks ago everything worked properly, but a new batch of paper ballots was used during Tuesday’s Election.

Dominion, the company that provides the voting machines in Mercer County, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that “the issue in Mercer County is a printing issue."

"The Dominion tabulators functioned exactly as they should by rejecting incorrectly printed ballots. We are actively working with Royal Printing and Mercer County election officials on this issue.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Royal Printing told New Jersey 101.5 news there were no problems at all with the ballots.

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It can't happen again

State Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, said it's important to get this straightened out and determine “what we can do to make sure it never occurs again.”

She said these days, when there’s any kind of election snafu, “people start questioning the integrity of our voting system. We’ve seen that nationwide and we don’t want that to happen here in Mercer County.”

“We have never had a problem in terms of questioning the integrity and the reliability of our voting system," she added.

Turner said she’s been assured everyone who wanted to vote was able to cast a ballot, and that is most critical.

An effective backup plan

Ben Dworkin, director of the Rowan University Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship, said a quick resolution of the issue is critical “so that people who want to misinterpret what happened will not have the evidence to be able to make those claims.”

He said the backup voting system in place in Mercer County that uses paper ballots and sharpies is effective.

“And because we have bipartisan boards of elections that oversee these things, I think everyone can have confidence.”

“There’s no reason to question the honesty and integrity of elections in New Jersey," Dworkin said.

State election officials declined to comment on the situation until a determination is made about what caused the problem.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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