OLD BRIDGE – Though a special election to settle the 4th Ward Township Council seat has been set for March 22, one of the candidates has appealed the judge's decision to order a new election.
State Superior Court Judge Daniel McCloskey in New Brunswick ruled Dec. 29 that a new election should be held because of a mix-up in vote-by-mail ballots on one street.
Democrat Jill DeCaro was declared the winner over Republican Mark Razzoli by 11 votes, 1,554 to 1,543.
But Razzoli contested the results in Superior Court, arguing that there were 27 registered voters on the even-numbered side of Cymbeline Drive who were denied the right to vote in the 4th Ward because they received 2nd Ward ballots.
The odd-numbered side of the street is in the 2nd Ward.
Seventeen of those 27 residents cast ballots in the election, but those ballots were later rejected.
The judge ruled in favor of Razzoli.
Two days after the judge's ruling, DeCaro filed an appeal. She also has filed a motion to stay McCloskey's order pending the appeal.
McCloskey is expected to file his decision on the motion on Jan. 21.
"The unnecessary expenditure of public funds on a new election is contrary to the public interest," Daniel Antonelli, DeCaro's attorney, argues in a brief supporting the motion, "as it may cost taxpayers significant sums of money, especially wile an appeal is pending that could obviate the need for a new election."
In the appeal, DeCaro argues that the township map of voting districts and wards does not support Razzoli's argument and the judge's ruling.
DeCaro also contends that Razzoli's failure to ask for a recount, independently attempt to identify any of the alleged disenfranchised voters or confirm the number of voters in question made his lawsuit "fatal upon filing."
Because the margin of the election was so close, McCloskey ruled, those 17 contested votes could change the outcome of the election.
In his 38-page ruling, McCloskey ruled that the 4th Ward seat is vacant and will be filled in a special election.
"As sure as night follows day, mistakes can and do happen in the election processes," McCloskey wrote.
The judge ruled that the Middlesex County clerk "did nothing wrong here. She relied upon what was in the SRVS (Statewide Voter Registration System)."
The error can be traced to the SVRS, the judge ruled, that listed the wrong ward for the voters on the even side of the street.
McCloskey noted that because of changes in state laws, election officials at all levels of government were faced with "monumental challenges" because New Jersey was placed "in uncharted waters" and "unanticipated circumstances" prompted by the pandemic.
Susan Loyer covers Middlesex County and more for MyCentralJersey.com. To get unlimited access to her work, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: Old Bridge NJ candidate appeals new election order