A Superior Court judge has invalidated the results of an Old Bridge Township Council election after finding that some voters received the wrong ballots and has ordered a special election to fill the seat.
Democrat Jill DeCaro defeated GOP Councilman Mark Razzoli in the November general election by 11 votes in Old Bridge’s Ward 4.
Judge Thomas Daniel McCloskey determined that election officials didn’t properly follow boundaries set in the 2011 ward redistricting map put voters from the odd numbered homes on one side of Cymbeline Drive in Ward 2, and the even numbered homes on the opposite side of Cymbeline Drive residing in the Ward 4.
“As sure as night follows day, mistakes can and do happen in the election processes. The proofs adduced in this election contest have demonstrated that proposition to this Court clearly and convincingly – and beyond the applicable statutory preponderance of evidence standard,” McCloskey said. “To the point, they demonstrated that but for this particular election contest, at least one serious mistake would not have been – and might not ever have been – uncovered.”
Seventeen voters were given Ward 2 ballots instead.
“Simply put, as can be readily gleaned from the above figures, the evidence presented was clear and convincing that of those 27 registered voters on the even-numbered side of Cymbeline Drive, 17 erroneously voted in Ward 2, District 4 …. through no fault of their own, when they in fact resided in Ward 4, District 3 and should have received ballots for that ward and district but did not. Instead, they received ballots for Ward 2, District 4, but the race for the Township Committee seat between Mr. Razzoli and Ms. DeCaro was for Ward 4, not Ward 2.”
McCloskey cleared Middlesex County Clerk Nancy Pinkin of any wrongdoing, agreeing the county counsel’s assessment that the mistake was made by the state Division of Elections that maintains the Statewide Voter Registration System.
“The county clerk did nothing wrong here,” McCloskey wrote. “She relied upon what information was in the SRVS to issue ballots.”
The judge has not set a new election date, although he specifically ruled out a day that conflicts with fire commissioner elections on February 19 or a possible special school election on March 8.
Another Superior Court Judge had set a do-over election in South Toms River, where a 2020 election had ended in a tie, for March 15, 2022.
“In our system of government, the right to vote is sacrosanct,” McCloskey wrote in his opinion. “Consequently, the courts vigilantly enforce our election laws to safeguard and ensure that no one who is lawfully registered to vote is disenfranchised of that right and precluded, through no fault of their own, from casting a vote for the candidate of his/her choice.”
It’s not clear if DeCaro will appeal the ruling.
“We are reviewing the decision to determine if an appeal will be filed,” said her attorney, Daniel Antonelli of Antonelli Kantor.
Razzoli said that “somewhere, the State of New Jersey forgot that elections are about ‘We the People.’”
“I went to bat for election integrity when I filed the case and I am pleased with the outcome,” he said. “At least seventeen of my constituents on Cymbeline Drive were disenfranchised due to an error made by the State. Every voter deserves the right to vote for their representatives. Thanks to the Court’s ruling, every fourth ward voter will have that chance.”
He promised that his team will “be vigilant and will make sure that everyone who is supposed to vote will get that chance, and those who are not supposed to vote, do not vote.”
“I look forward to the special election, where my opponent and I will compare our records in an open and honest fashion,” stated Razzoli. “I am confident that my record on taxes, public safety and seniors are what the Ward Four voters are looking for.”
This story was updated at 7:44 PM with comment from Razzoli.