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South Toms River special election set for March 15

By Joey Fox, December 09 2021 2:39 pm

A special election for a contested seat on the South Toms River Borough Council has been set for March 15, 2022 – a date that comes more than 16 months after the election was originally held in November 2020.

The original contest, between Democrat George Rutzler and incumbent Republican Sandford Ross, resulted in a tie, with both candidates receiving exactly 722 votes. After a Democratic challenge successfully tossed two vote-by-mail ballots that had been filled out incorrectly, Rutzler took the lead and was sworn into office.

But in April, after Rutzler had served for four months, Superior Court Judge Arnold Goldman ordered that Rutzler be removed and a special election rematch between Rutzler and Ross be held in June. That special election was then canceled after the office of the attorney general appealed, even though some votes had already been cast.

Finally, two days ago, a state appellate court ruling put the special election back on, with Goldman in charge of determining the date. In a hearing held this afternoon, attorneys representing Rutzler and Ross both advocated for as early of an election as possible, while Laura Benson argued on behalf of the Ocean County Clerk’s office that a later election date would give them more time to prepare.

“There literally is no one in the clerk’s election services right now until January 3,” Benson said. “Literally, I have no one to develop the vote-by-mail ballots in order to advertise that they are available, and they have to be translated into Spanish because this is a dual-language municipality.”

The date of March 15 was eventually reached as a compromise, with all parties appearing relatively satisfied. There will be no early voting period.

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