Superior Court Judge Kathleen Sheedy today rejected a bid by an Eatontown mayoral candidate to be bracketed with her running mates for two borough council seats, saying that there is no legal provision for them to do so since they didn’t file a candidate for county commissioner to give them their own line.
Jasmine Story, who is challenging incumbent Anthony Talarico in the Democratic primary, had asked Sheedy to order new ballots to be printed after learning that her running mates, who are using the same slogan as her, were in different columns on the ballot.
Sheedy said that the legislature had never fully addressed the issue of bracketing for municipal candidates in primaries and found that the law allow ballot placement to be under the “reasonable discretion of the county clerk.”
“One reasonable course would have been to place the name of Ms. Story and her running mates in the same column. Another reasonable course would be to place the name of Ms. Story running mates in the column alongside of mysteries column. That was done here,” Sheedy said.
“The legislature chose to give the discretion regarding ballot placement to the county clerk and not to the court. I cannot find that the clerks action not placing the names of Ms. Story and her running mates in the same column, was not rooted in reason and that she exceeded the bounds of her delegated authority.”
In her decision, Sheedy said creating a new ballot for the primary that does not match the vote-by-mail ballots that are already out would cause “voter confusion by creating different ballots circulating in the same election and could have a negative effect on the election process.”
She said the “public interest will not be harmed” by Story and her running mates not being bracketed together on the ballot.
Story’s issue could make it’s way into a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of organization lines in New Jersey. Her attorneys, Yael Bromberg and Brett Pugach, are working on that lawsuit.