Democrats have filed a legal challenge to results of a township committee race in Morris Township, where 42 provisional ballots remain uncounted because the envelope was unsealed – possibly as a result of defective glue.
Peter Mancuso, an 82-year-old Republican incumbent who first won local office in 1978, leads Democrat Bud Ravitz by just 15 votes after a recount held last month.
The complaint, filed by the New Jersey Democratic State Committee and the Morris County Democratic Committee, includes affidavits from poll workers and eighteen voters stating that the envelope glue would not stick.
They are seeking a court order to count the 42 unopened ballots.
Gail Biggs, a ten-year poll worker, said that she witnessed about “three provisional ballots that were unable to be sealed via glue found on the envelope flap.”
“In each instance, the voter was struggling to get the envelope to seal after licking it and asked for assistance from myself or a colleague,” Biggs said. “Notably, these ballots were not sticking at all and I did not observe any glue on the flap whatsoever.”
Biggs said she considered taping the envelopes shut, but was concerned that doing so would invalidate the ballot.
“After the voters were unable to seal the ballot it was placed securely with the other provisional ballots at the poll workers’ table and later placed in a red bag that was sealed and returned to the Board of Elections after the polls closed,” Biggs said.
Biggs believes it was impossible to tamper with the unsealed ballots since they were being guarded by the poll workers “at all times.”
“None of the issues that I observed with sealing the provisional ballot envelopes were the fault of the voters, who cast their vote with complete privacy,” Biggs said. “All such unsealed ballots maintained the same level of privacy and security as every other provisional ballot that was sealed without issue.”
The provisional ballot voters who signed affidavits say they attempted to seal their ballots, but the envelope would not close.
“I was never informed by the poll worker that failure to seal the envelope would result in the disqualification of my ballot,” each of the eighteen voters stated in the court filing. “I feel strongly that my vote should not be disenfranchised due to circumstances outside of my control and believe my ballot should be opened and counted.”
The Democratic State Committee is being represented by Raj Parikh of Genova Burns. The attorney for the Morris Democrats is Scott Salmon of Jardim, Meisner & Susser.
The New Jersey Globe first reported that defective glue was to blame for at least some of the rejected provisional ballots in Morris County last month.
Morris County Clerk Ann Grossi, whose office supplied the provisional ballots, told the Globe that she was concerned by the number of votes that were not counted this year.
“I have an issue with it,” Grossi said. “It isn’t fair. I was very concerned that there were 42 ballots that were not closed.”
Grossi said she was considering envelopes with adhesive strips for future elections.
Ace Twill, the Berkeley Heights-based printing company that sold the envelopes to Morris County, initially promised to disclose the specifications of the adhesive used to keep them closed.
They have not done so.Ravitz court filing