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Holmdel Township Committeeman Prakash Santhana.

2019 Holmdel election challenge invalidates just one vote

Independent challenger beat Republican by two votes after recount

By Nikita Biryukov, December 01 2020 6:16 pm

A Monmouth County Superior Court judge invalidated only one ballot in last year’s Holmdel Township Committee races after a Republican candidate left two votes behind following a recount filed an election challenge.

Judge Kathleen Sheedy ruled only one of the five votes challenged by Republican candidate Chiung-Yin Cheng Liu was invalid. That voter, the judge found, moved to Middleton before election day. She declined to admit two rejected mail-in ballots the Republican sought to have included.

Liu led Democrat Prakash Santhana by three votes, 2,082-2,079, when results were first certified there last year, but a recount added eight votes to the independent’s total and just three votes to Liu’s, giving Santhana a two-vote lead, 2,087-2,085.

After that, Liu challenged the five votes, claiming those people who cast them lived elsewhere, but Sheedy disagreed.

The challenge claimed two voters, including the daughter of Assemblywoman and former Holmdel Mayor Serena DiMaso (R-Holmdel), lived outside of New Jersey, but they were only attending schools in other states. Both have since returned to Holmdel.

It claimed another voter actually lived in Hoboken, touting a Hoboken address on her driver’s license. That was only the case so she could secure a parking permit in the city, the voter said.

A fourth voter, the suit said, was ineligible because she lived in Wall, but she didn’t move there until June, 2020.

The ballot of a voter who moved out of her Holmdel home in September, 2019, was invalidated.

The suit asked for two rejected mail-in ballots to be included in the count, but the judge denied both. One ballot arrived after election day without a postmark.

2019’s election rules allowed such mail-in ballots to be counted if they reached election officials within 48 hours of the close of polls and were postmarked by election day. The voter said she mailed the ballot on Nov. 4, the day before the election, but did not get her ballot postmarked before sending it.

That vote would be counted under the rules imposed for this year’s general election, which saw ballots that reached election boards within two days of election day counted regardless of whether they had a postmarked.

The son of the other mail-in voter admitted to signing her ballot, which he said she filled.

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