Three local candidates in Dover who were removed from the ballot for residency issues have asked a judge to reverse a decision made yesterday by the municipal clerk.
James P. Dodd, who is seeking a return to the mayor’s post he held from 2004 to 2020, is disputing a determination by Reynaldo Julve, the acting municipal clerk, that he fails to meet the one-year residency requirement.
Two Dodd-aligned alderman candidates, Claudio Toro and Sergio Rodriguez, also maintain that Julve got it wrong and that they have each lived in Dover for more than one year.
But Stuart Minkowitz, the slow-moving Morris County assignment judge, has not scheduled a hearing until April 28 – six days after the statutory deadline for the county clerk to commence mailing vote-by-mail ballots.
Minkowitz’s order did not halt the printing or mailing of ballots or prevent today’s ballot drawing from taking place. That means some votes will likely have been cast when Minkowitz holds his hearing in three weeks.
Assuming Minkowitz has not prejudged the case, the sluggishness of the briefing schedule he ordered on Thursday could result in ballots being voided, reprinted, and remailed before the June primary.
Dodd said his property in Sussex County is a tree farm business, not his residence. He has provided Minkowitz with his tax return, driver’s license, utility bills, and property leases.
“A person can have many properties, but one domicile,” said Dodd in his court filing. “I am a Dover person. I will always be a Dover person. I have not now, nor will I ever give up my Dover address.”
Toro and Rodriguez have also provided the court with tax returns, driver’s licenses, and other documentation to prove residency.
Dodd served four terms as mayor before losing re-election in 2019 by 50 votes; a Democrat he had run as an independent against Carolyn Blackman. Blackman is running again but without party support. The local Democratic organization is backing former Alderman Edward Correa. Another alderman, Sandra Wittner, is already in the race.
State administrative law judges, who have jurisdiction over candidates for the legislature, hear petition challenges within one business day and issued their decisions quickly.