Jacob Mercer-Pontier hasn’t lived in Lambertville since he graduated high school fifteen years ago, but he can keep voting out of his parents house for as long as he considers that to be his real home, Superior Court Judge Michael O’Neill ruled on Wednesday.
O’Neill rejected challenges to five young adults who live on their own but still vote from the home of a parent, a move that could end a prolonged legal challenge to a $33.4 million South Hunterdon Regional School bond referendum vote that passed by just two votes last November.
Opponents of the referendum challenged the eligibility of the voters because they no longer live in the school district.
Mercer-Pontier, a 33-year-old publishing company employee who has lived in London for the last seven years, has continued to vote in local elections.
O’Neill said that Mercer-Pointer’s decision to keep voting from his parents’ home – and other things, like maintaining a New Jersey driver license and bank account — is validation of his intent to be a Lambertville resident.
“Residents but one may have several residences or places of abode for business the basic concept underlying domicile is that of home,” stated O’Neill, who cited court opinions that the disenfranchisement of voters ought to be a last resort.
Another voter, Olivia Peluso, has lived in California for six years, but still votes from her mother’s Lambertville address. O’Neill agreed with attorney Scott Salmon that her participation in the Greater Lambertville Chamber of Commerce Turkey Trot last November was evidence of her close ties to the community.
As a result, the two-vote margin stands and O’Neill dismissed the lawsuit.
The attorney for the residents who opposed the referendum, Matt Moench, said he would appeal. O’Neill is considering a stay of his decision pending the next move by the state appellate court.