By MADDY VITALEHeading into Tuesday, more than 60 percent of Cape May County voters have already cast their ballots in an election that is one for the books.“People are hyper-focused on this election. I have never experienced this where people are hyper-focused the way they are,” County Clerk Rita Marie Fulginiti said in an interview Monday afternoon.The race that likely has everyone anxious is the presidential election, with President Donald Trump and Joe Biden slugging it out in the last hours of the bitter, divisive campaign.Then there is the U.S. Senate race with Democratic incumbent Sen. Cory Booker against Republican challenger Rik Meht. In the hotly contested 2nd Congressional District race, incumbent Republican Jeff Van Drew is facing Democratic challenger Amy Kennedy.Cape May County Freeholder incumbents Will Morey and Jeff Pierson are running against Democrats Liz Casey and Brendan Sciarra. Fulginiti and Cape May County Sheriff Bob Nolan, both Republicans, are each running unopposed for new terms.With just one day to go, Fulginiti said about 63 percent of county voters have already cast their ballots. Out of 72,744 ballots issued to active registered voters, as of Friday, Oct. 30, 45,722 ballots had already been returned.“That is 63 percent of Cape May County voters who have already returned their voting ballots and that doesn’t include what we collected Saturday,” Fulginiti explained. “We will go into Election Day at 66 or 67 percent of the ballots in.”She noted that in her 35 years of working in county government, she had never seen anything like this election season.“In 2008 when Barack Obama ran for his first term, there was a high turnout. I can remember in the week before the election, 100 people were in our office every day to get a mail-in-ballot,” Fulginiti recalled. “The message was of hope. I was blown away by the response Obama had on voters, but this year, the election response is quite astounding.”This year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of New Jersey’s votes are being done by mail-in ballots.Voters can vote in-person at a polling location on Election Day, but only by a paper provisional ballot. If you have a disability that prevents you from voting on a paper ballot, you will be provided access to a voting machine.In Cape May County, voters had the option of mailing in their ballots or using one of the 11 drop boxes around the county to cast their votes.For Fulginiti and her staff at the Clerk’s Office and the County Board of Elections employees, work has been very busy.“We have replaced more than 1,000 voters’ ballots because they either tore them up or misplaced them,” she said. “People are just driven. They are coming in our office. The lines have been constant and out the door. People are just waiting in line to return their ballots or get new ones.”More than 60 percent of Cape May County’s registered voters have already voted.Fulginiti also said that countless emails and phone calls are also coming into the Clerk’s Office from people trying to find out if their ballots were in.The Cape May County Election Department’s website at www.capemaycountyvotes.com has a ballot tracker in which voters may put in information to see if their vote was logged.However, Fulginiti said, sometimes people have trouble looking up their ballots.Despite the magnitude of work, there are just 18 people in the Clerk’s Office to handle the duties. The Board of Elections also has a monumental task leading up to and on Election Night, with just 20 employees doing the bulk of the work.By Tuesday night, at about 9:30 p.m., the county will likely know the unofficial winners of the races. People may view the unofficial returns at www.capemaycountyvotes.comAlthough the votes are not going to be official, Fulginiti said this, “A significant number that were tallied will be up there. The board started counting on Oct. 26 and they have been continually counting the ballots and will do so up through Election Day until they are all finished.”After that, updated results will be posted on Nov. 12, since ballots postmarked Nov. 3 can be received into the office by Nov 10. Then the provisional ballots will be counted, and the final count will be posted on the county website.The results will be certified on or before Nov. 20 and the results will be sent to the state by the cutoff date of Nov. 23, Fulginiti said.“I am expecting they (the Board of Elections) will see a good result tomorrow night. I have been looking at the numbers,” she noted. “Our culture here in Cape May County is to run fair elections and at the end of the day, things will be good.”People voting on Election Day have the option of dropping off their mail-in ballots in person at the polling places. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.Voters may also still mail their ballots in so long as they are postmarked on or before Nov. 3 and received by the county clerk by Nov. 10.In Ocean City, First and Second Ward residents can vote at St. Francis of Cabrini Church at 114 Atlantic Ave. Third and Fourth Ward residents may vote at Our Lady Of Good Counsel Hall located at 3948 Central Ave.People may also go directly to the Cape May County Board of Elections located at 10 Mechanic Street in Cape May Court House no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day.Here are the 11 drop box locations in Cape May County:Cape May County Clerk’s Office, 7 North Main Street, Cape May Court HouseCape May County Public Works Building, 536 Woodbine-Ocean View Road, OceanviewCape May Municipal Hall, 643 Washington Street, Cape MayLower Township Municipal Hall, 2600 Bayshore Road, VillasLower Township Public Safety Building (court entrance) in the Cape May County Airport Complex, ErmaMartin Luther King Center, 207 W. Main Street, WhitesboroOcean City Municipal Hall, 861 Asbury Avenue, Ocean CitySea Isle City Branch Cape May County Library, 4800 Central Ave., Sea IsleStone Harbor Branch Cape May County Library, 9516 2nd Avenue, Stone HarborUpper Township Municipal Hall, 2100 Tuckahoe Road, PetersburgWildwood Municipal Hall, 4400 New Jersey Ave., WildwoodThere will be a vote tally posted in www.capemaycountyvotes.com Tuesday night that will be updated as final and official results are recorded. Voters may still cast their ballots at drop box locations throughout the county, such as this one at City Hall in Ocean City.
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