A municipal clerk can’t toss a candidate off the ballot just because he didn’t include his email address on his nominating petition, Superior Court Judge Stuart Minkowitz ruled on Thursday.
That puts Solomon Sostre on the June Democratic primary ballot for a seat on the Dover Board of Alderman and sets up a rematch with incumbent Judith Rugg.
Sostre filed petitions on April 5, before the filing deadline, with a single deficiency: he didn’t include his email address on his petition, as required by state election law.
The acting municipal clerk, John Schmidt, notified Sostre by regular mail on April 6 that he had three days to cure the petition defect. The U.S. Postal Service took three days to deliver the letter in the 2.7 square mile town, putting it in Sostre’s mailbox on Friday, April 9.
Sostre’s attorney, Alan Zakin, said the candidate contacted Schmidt on Monday morning and sent a text message with his email address, but Schmidt ruled that the three day deadline to repair petition deficiencies had passed and refused to certify his petitions.
Scott Salmon, representing Schmidt, argued that the clerk was within his right to reject Sostre’s petitions.
“We provided the notice,” Salmon said. “He failed to respond.”
But Minkowitz ruled that election laws are to be liberally construed to maximize public participation in elections, including candidates being placed on the ballot.
The judge said the three-day period to cure petitions doesn’t begin until the candidate is notified of the rejection, saying that any other ruling would give election officials “unfettered ability to control a candidate’s eligibility.”
According to Minkowitz, the municipal clerk’s refusal to certify Sostre’s petition was “unreasonable.”
An attorney representing Morris County Clerk Ann Grossi, Kirstin Bohn, told Minkowitz that Dover ballots had not yet been delivered to the printer.
Sostre is making his second bid for alderman.
He ran as an independent in 2019 on a slate with incumbent Mayor James P. Dodd. Rugg, the Democratic nominee, defeated him by 13 votes, 395 to 382, in the general election.