Former Eatontown Councilwoman Jasmine Story, a Democrat running for mayor this year, has filed a lawsuit against her town’s ballot design, which breaks up her ticket across multiple columns and makes it appear as though candidates on the ticket are running independently of one another.
Though the candidates running alongside Story share a ballot slogan, they do not have any affiliated countywide candidates and did not file as a bracketed slate, meaning that Superior Court Judge Kathleen Sheedy will have to determine whether a shared slogan alone is enough to warrant the creation of a unified column on the ballot.
Story, who ran for re-election last year as an independent and lost in a landslide, is challenging incumbent Mayor Anthony Talerico in the Democratic primary. Joining her in her off-the-line bid are two council candidates, Angela Brunelli and Todd Miller, and a number of county committee candidates.
Story’s candidacy for mayor this year was initially rejected by the borough clerk because her petitions had been jointly filed with her council candidates, something not typically allowed because the offices of mayor and council are distinct from one another. Sheedy, however, ordered Story back onto the ballot.
According to Story’s lawsuit, after her candidacy was reinstated, Borough Clerk Julie Martin informed county committee candidates that they would need to submit a new ballot line; all responded by saying they would like to be listed under the slogan Eatontown Democrats. The ballot ultimately printed by Monmouth County Clerk Christine Hanlon, who is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, does indeed list each candidate on Story’s slate as a member of the Eatontown Democrats ticket – but separately from one another, since they did not qualify for bracketing.
On the mail-in ballot Story provided as evidence in the trial, she is listed in Column B, her council candidates are in Column C, and her county committee candidate is listed in Column D. The party-endorsed Monmouth County Democrats ticket – which, unlike Story’s slate, properly filed as a bracketed slate – is kept intact in Column A.
“All of the Monmouth County Democrats turned in different petitions but are on the same line because of the slogan that they share,” the lawsuit alleges. “Yet the Eatontown Democrats were denied the same associational rights despite them requesting to be listed under the Eatontown Democrats. This is a blatant abuse of power.”
The ballots have of course already been printed and mailed out, but Story is insisting that they be retracted and reprinted. The case is due to be heard at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
No Republicans will be on the ballot for the office of mayor, but the party is planning to run a write-in candidacy in June. The two council seats up for election this year are both held by Republicans: Councilman Kevin Gonzalez and Councilwoman Maria Grazia Escalante, who are both running for re-election.
This story was updated at 1:22 p.m. with more information about Story’s prior removal from the ballot and her slate’s lack of formal bracketed status.