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Polling places quiet as most voters opt for mail-in ballots

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Turnout has been low at Newark polling places Tuesday, as most voters opted to cast absentee ballots in the city council election.

Around 1 p.m., unofficial reports from poll workers indicated that approximately 40 people had voted in person in District 3, and 50 had voted in District 5.

“It has been slow,” City Secretary Renee Bensley said.

As of July 22, the city had received 317 absentee ballots for District 3 and 370 in District 5. As a comparison, in the last council election, those districts saw 484 and 469 total votes, respectively.

Since the pandemic began, Bensley and her staff have been encouraging Newarkers to vote absentee rather than in person in order to avoid possible exposure to coronavirus at a polling place.

In March, prior to the original election date of April 14, they took the unusual step of proactively mailing absentee ballot affidavits to every registered voter in the two contested districts – a total of approximately 6,000 people. After the election was rescheduled, they sent out a second application to voters who had not yet sent one in.

“My goal is to have as many people vote as have voted in past elections or more, with as few of them coming through a polling place as possible,” Bensley explained last month.

It appears that plan has worked, as the city has avoided the long lines that plagued the Christina School District referendum in June.

In District 3, newcomers Jay Bancroft and Anthony Sinibaldi are vying for the seat that will be vacated by incumbent Jen Wallace, who is not seeking a third term. In District 5, newcomer Brian K. Anderson is challenging incumbent Jason Lawhorn, who is seeking a second term.

Polls will remain open until 8 p.m. District 3 votes at West Park Place Elementary, while District 5 votes at the First Presbyterian Church of Newark. Absentee ballots can be dropped off at city hall until 8 p.m.

Results will be announced via an online livestream at Bensley said the results are expected sometime Tuesday night but may come later than usual due to the time it takes to count absentee ballots. Election judges will begin counting absentee ballots at 5 p.m.

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