Malinowski’s lead over Kean tightens as election workers count District 7 ballots

The votes are still being counted in the closest congressional race in New Jersey – District 7.
Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski leads Republican state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. by just over 4,700 votes. Elections officials in Union County tallied provisional ballots in that race Tuesday morning.
“Everybody is right now focused on [Congressional District 7]. So, while everybody is waiting with bated breath for results, you’ve got to wait until we’re done,” says Union County Board of Elections administrator Nicole DiRado.
Malinowski’s margin of victory over Kean has been decreasing as the ballots are counted.
“Our motto has been, ‘One ballot at a time.’ And that’s how we got through this,” DiRado says.
Union County closed its juvenile detention facility earlier this year. Now, the space is being used to count ballots, including those from the 7th Congressional District race.
“All the ballots, that need to be opened and prepped, they start here,” DiRado says.
DiRado has been the administrator of Union County's Board of Elections for just over two years. She and her workers have been putting in seven-day work weeks since Labor Day.
“They’re prepped one last time before they go into the vote tabulator,” DiRado says of the ballots.
Workers were counting thousands of provisional ballots on Tuesday, which were cast by people who went to the polls two weeks ago on Election Day. DiRado says that the ballot counter can count up to 300 ballots per minute.
Fifty election workers and 20 members of the National Guard have gone through over 250,000 mail-in and provisional ballots so far.
“We’ve been working a lot of hours, a lot of overtime,” DiRado says.
The workers have until Friday to count them all. The counted ballots are stored in a former cellblock, ready for a regular, state-mandated audit that starts on Dec. 1. DiRado says that she is confident in her workers.
“At the end of the day, this will be a fair and successful election, and everyone will be sure their vote was counted,” she says.
Friday is also the deadline for either side to ask a judge to order a recount in the race. District 7 includes all of Hunterdon County and parts of Essex, Morris, Somerset, Union and Warren counties.