The Morris County Clerk’s office will double down on an interpretation of a 1994 ruling that allows political parties, not state election law, to determine the number of signatures required to file a nominating petition for county committee.
Deputy County Clerk John Wojtaszek says that political parties “have the right under case law that they make their own rules.”
“This is the policy,” Wojtaszek said.
Vincent La Iacona III, a county committee candidate from Rockaway Township, filed challenges late Friday to petitions filed by eight candidates. In five of those challenges, La Iacona alleges the candidates failed to file the legally required number of signatures.
New Jersey election law sets the minimum number of petition signatures required to run for county committee at no less than 5% of the total votes cast in the most recent State Assembly primary district – no less than one, but no more than ten. That means every district has a different number, and that the number might be different in an individual district depending on political party.
But Laura Roberts, the elections manager at the Morris County Clerk’s office, advised municipal clerks that the minimum number of signatures is five for Republicans and one for Democrats.
Wojtaszek says that Roberts’ numbers reflect an agreement between the Republican and Democratic county chairs in 1994. He provided the New Jersey Globe with letters written by Republican Joan Bramhall and Democrat George Hanley showing that the two parties authorized the deviation from the statewide practice on county committee petitions.
According to Wojtaszek, the statute applies only to offices where contests are run in a general election.
“It is very defensible,” Wojtaszek said. “Parties govern themselves. The Clerk has followed the practice we followed for the last 24 year.”
The other 20 New Jersey counties handle county committee petitions in accordance with state election law.
These events are occurring under the backdrop of an intra-party rivalry in Rockaway Township and a hotly contested race for Morris County Republican Chairman.
County Clerk Ann Grossi, who is seeking re-election to a second term this year, has recused herself from election matters for the 2018 cycle.Morris County Republican letter
Morris County Democratic letter