A state appellate court judge has stopped the printing and mailing of ballots in Howell pending the appeal of a controversial petition challenge in a race for three township council seats.
Superior Court Judge Kathleen Sheedy permitted candidates to retroactively merge three petitions into one so that a slate backed by the local Republican organization could reach the legally required 50 signatures to get on the June primary ballot.
Sheedy rejected a request by an attorney representing John Hughes, a Howell Democrat, to stay the ruling pending appeal.
But Judge Hany A. Mawla, an appellate judge, agreed to hear the appeal and ordered County Clerk Christine Hanlon to hold off the printing of ballots. Another appellate judge, Michael J. Haas, will join Mawla on the panel.
While federal law requires military overseas ballots to be mailed tomorrow – 45 days before the election – the New Jersey Globe has learned that there are no such voters in Howell on the Republican side.
Mawla ordered the court to provide a transcript of Sheedy’s hearing within 24 hours. Hughes’ attorney, David Minchello of Rainone Coughlin Minchello, must file his brief by noon on Monday. Opposition briefs must be filed by noon on Tuesday.
Republican Fred Gasior filed 50 signatures, and his running mate, Susan Fischer, field 52. The municipal clerk invalidated enough signatures push both under 50. But the GOP municipal chair, Joseph DiBella, filed the petitions – along with a third candidate, Ian Nadel – as if they were joint petitions.
That changes the way generations of candidates have handled petitions, where the names of candidates were always on the ballot before signatures were added.