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New Jersey Superior Court Judge Stuart Minkowitz. New Jersey Globe Photo.

Appellate court says Dover ballots should be bi-lingual

Loss for Grossi, who went to court rather than offer ballots in Spanish for town that is 69.4% Hispanic

By David Wildstein, April 08 2019 10:48 am

A state appellate court has ruled Morris County Clerk Ann Grossi should print bi-lingual ballots in Dover, overturning a ruling last June by Superior Court Judge Stuart Minkowitz.

Grossi had refused to bring vote-by-mail and machine ballots in Spanish last year in a hotly contested Democratic primary in Dover, even though U.S. Census figures show a 69.4% Hispanic population – one of thirteen New Jersey municipalities with a Hispanic majority.

With seven days to go before primary election ballots are sent to the printer, the appellate court ordered Minkowitz to issue a new order.  If Minkowitz doesn’t do this quickly, there is no assurance that Grossi will print the ballots in English and Spanish for Dover’s 2019 primary election.

“Our polestar is the Legislature’s intent, that the election laws are to be construed liberally with an eye to facilitating rather than obstructing the right to vote, and that absurd results are to be avoided in statutory construction,” the three judge panel — William Nugent, Susan Reisner and Hany Mawla – wrote in their opinion.

The judges found that it “makes no sense to provide bilingual sample ballots because voters are not fluent in English, but to expect those same voters to navigate an official balloting process that is English-only.”

The ruling said that VBM and machine ballots must mirror absentee ballots.

“We acknowledge that if we have misconstrued the Legislature’s purpose, the Legislature is free, as always, to amend the statutes to clarify its intent,” the opinion said.

Edward Correa, who is now the Democratic municipal chairman, asked a judge to order the ballots reprinted.  Judge Stuart Minkowitz denied the request on the Friday before the primary.

The appeal was filed in June 2018 and the appellate court held a conference on  the case in January 2019.  They decided the issue on Friday, one day after the New Jersey Globe questioned the courts about the delay.

Correa was represented by Rajiv Parikh of Genova Burns and Scott Salmon of Jardim, Mesiner & Susser.  The New Jersey Democratic State Committee had joined the appeal.

Correa v Grossi May 2018
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