A Superior Court Judge will decide by the end of the year how to handle a contested Old Bridge Township Council race where a Republican incumbent who lost by 11 votes says the Middlesex County Clerk mailed ballots to the wrong voters.
Judge Thomas Daniel McCloskey promised a written decision on a request by Councilman Mark Razzoli to invalidate the election results, a motion by Democratic Councilwoman-elect Jill DeCaro to dismiss the complaint, or whether to take the matter to trial.
The issue is whether Nancy Pinkin, the county’s top election official, followed boundaries set in the 2011 ward redistricting map put voters from the odd numbered homes on one side of Cymbeline Drive in Ward 2, and the even numbered homes on the opposite side of Cymbeline Drive residing in the Ward 4.
The Middlesex County Counsel’s office, representing Pinkin, is blaming the mistake on the New Jersey Secretary of State’s office, saying the information in the Statewide Voter Registration System was incorrect.
DeCaro’s attorney, Daniel Antonelli, said he didn’t necessarily agree with the reading of the ward map and said voters received the proper ballot. He said the burden to prove that Razzoli’s.
DeCaro leads Razzoli, 1,554 to 1,543, in a race for a Ward 4 council seat. Razzoli’s attorney, Timothy Howes, alleges that all the Cymbeline Drive voters received Ward 2 ballots and that 17 voters – six more than DeCaro’s margin of victory – were disenfranchised.
“Someone, somewhere, made the mistake,” Howes said in a court hearing on Wednesday. “It doesn’t matter if the mistake was made in the system, the voters didn’t make the mistake.”
Of the 17 voters in question, 8 returned vote-by-mail ballots – one was invalidated – two voted early by machine, and 7 voted on Election Day.
“By my count, there were seventeen voters who arguably had legal votes rejected because they should have been voting in the fourth ward and not the second ward,” McCloskey said.
But the county says there were 14 voters affected, not 17.
McCloskey sharply criticized the state for Election Day problems.
“To be honest with everyone, it was a little startling to the court to realize the pervasive issue that arose on Election Day,” McCloskey said. “I say it was starting because was all rolled out as part of the early voting rights act. In this election it doesn’t appear that any of these systems in new electronic hold books were the machines used had been tested.”
McCloskey noted that there was no “pilot program” for the new systems and technologies used in the November 2 general election and said that poll workers to use emergency ballots “when they should have used provisional ballots” after many polling locations were unable to hook up to their Wi-Fi.
“In using the emergency ballots there was no way for the poll workers to verify the registration status of a voter because the electronic poll book was down.”
Antonelli objected to the Republican filing was defective.
“There is not one disclosure of one name in the petition, and we believe for that reason the petition was fatal,” Antonelli said.