Morris Clerk: Why the numbers kept changing in Morris Township election

Morris County Clerk Ann Grossi. Photo: MorrisCountyClerk.org
Morris County Clerk Ann Grossi. Photo: MorrisCountyClerk.org
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By Kevin Coughlin

There was nothing “nefarious” behind those ping-ponging election numbers from Morris Township on Tuesday night, Morris County Clerk Ann Grossi said on Wednesday morning.

Morris County Clerk Ann Grossi. Photo: MorrisCountyClerk.org
Morris County Clerk Ann Grossi. Photo: MorrisCountyClerk.org

Township committee candidate Jeff Grayzel, a Democrat, had raised questions about a late-night, “private meeting” between Grossi and Township GOP candidates and officials that coincided with a change in posted results, which dropped him from first to third in a race for two committee seats.

“It’s a wild imagination,” countered Grossi.

People streamed through her Morristown office all evening, and the only “private” meeting was requested by — and granted to — Morris County Democratic Chairman Chip Robinson, Grossi said.

“Chip came in. He could have brought anyone he wanted to. And we had a conversation about the process,” Grossi said, adding that she also spoke with Grayzel, his running mate Cathy Wilson, an attorney for the Democrats, and Morristown Democratic council candidate Justin Davis during the course of the night.

The county clerk cited technical reasons for the changing numbers, an emotional roller coaster for the apparent victors– Republican incumbents Matheu Nunn and Bruce Sisler–and Democratic challengers Grayzel and Wilson.

DEFECTIVE CARTRIDGE

Grossi blamed a defective cartridge from a voting booth in District 1 for discrepancies that for a time showed Grayzel as top vote-getter, one vote ahead of Nunn.

NOT ANOTHER RECOUNT...? Democratic candidate Jeff Grayzel on election night 2015. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
NOT ANOTHER RECOUNT…? Democratic candidate Jeff Grayzel on election night 2015. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

When a machine was unable to read results from that cartridge, it was set aside until later in the evening. So vote counts from that district — Nunn’s home district, a stronghold for him– were not reflected initially in the aggregate numbers posted on the county election website.

Later, election workers manually entered that district’s results from a paper backup created by the voting machine in the Fairchild fire house.

But the manual entry somehow erased a file containing absentee ballot counts, Grossi said.

Those absentee totals had to be re-entered, also manually, Grossi said.

The county clerk said the county election officials and the state-approved vendor of the county’s election system, Dominion, are investigating what caused these malfunctions.

Morris Township Mayor Dan Caffrey, left, and Committeewoman Louise Johnson parse election results at the Famished Frog. Photo by Kevin Coughlin, nov. 3, 2015
Morris Township Mayor Dan Caffrey, left, and Committeewoman Louise Johnson parse election results at the Famished Frog. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

POLL CONTROVERSY

Grossi said she has no jurisdiction over another controversial matter: A report that poll workers at Convent Station instructed voters to use separate voting machines based on their political party.

The county board of elections told a New York TV station that a mistake was made and that poll volunteers quickly were “re-educated.”

Matheu 'DON'T CONGRATULATE ME YET': Committeeman Matheu Nunn
‘DON’T CONGRATULATE ME YET’: Committeeman Matheu Nunn

As of Wednesday morning, the “unofficial” county tally showed Nunn and Sisler as the winners, with 2,270 and 2,236 votes, respectively, followed by Grayzel with 2,207 and Wilson with 2,190.

The results won’t become official until any “provisional” ballots are verified and tabulated, Grossi said.  Provisional ballots are cast when questions arise at the polling place about a voter’s registration or address.

Grayzel, a former two-time committeeman, said he will decide whether to seek a recount–it would be at least his third –after provisional ballots are counted on Monday, Nov. 9, 2015.

“Don’t congratulate me yet,” Mat Nunn said on Wednesday morning. “I’m still not comfortable with any numbers until the clerk certifies them.”

Nunn took exception to Grayzel’s suggestion that the all-GOP Township committee violated the state Sunshine Act by gathering in Grossi’s office without issuing 48-hour advance notice to the public.

At one point, Democrat Cathy Wilson thought she was just three votes shy of victory. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
At one point, Democrat Cathy Wilson thought she was just three votes shy of victory. Photo by Berit Ollestad

“We weren’t discussing public business,” said Nunn, an attorney and former prosecutor. “We were doing the same thing Jeff and his attorney were doing: ‘Hey, why has the county website changed four times in 20 minutes?'”

Grayzel reiterated on Wednesday: “I was eyewitness to the fact that the entire Morris Township committee was behind closed doors with [Grossi] while all the Democrats were in the hallway.”

Nunn said he empathized with his opponents, who went from jubilation over promising early numbers, to concession speeches, to renewed hope, and back to disappointment.

“Can you imagine being told on a county website you’re the winner?” said Nunn, who has run his first race after being appointed to an interim term earlier this year.  “It’s emotional for everyone, a lot of hard work for everyone.”

 

 

 

 

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Okay. I stand corrected. The poll workers get paid a nominal token (one step above a volunteer). But, nonetheless, this isn’t something that they do every day.

    Regarding low voter turn-out, I mostly think that this is fine. We really only want thoughtful informed people to vote anyway. I mean, they did a great job of getting a lot of people out to vote in the last two presidential elections and see what we got!!!

  2. The poll workers are not volunteers they are paid by Morris County. The challengers work for the candidates.
    Reguardless of the outcome I have to defend the County Clerk’s office. Ann Grossi and her staff are professional straight shooters.
    The vote ieas very close in this election.
    The bigger problem is apathy . When you look at the amount of registered voters versus the number of people who vote it is shameful. Taxpayers and residents taking little interest in a local election. Lazy , lazy , lazy!
    In America there needs to be a mandatory voter regulation. Such as if you don’t vote , your motor vehicle documents will not get renewed . I would like to see election results then. All would have skin in the game at that time. Right now it is not s good system.

  3. I suspect that the individual who is critical of Morris Township and the issues encountered with the election has (1) never managed a mehcnical process, and/or (2) never managed volunteers.

    “Things happen”, as they say. From what I’m reading Ann Grossi and her team did a commendable job of dealing with a challenging situation.

    It’s understandable that those who had a stake in the game were upset. But, if they can’t take charge of their emotions perhaps they are not the ones to take charge of us. And they are not.

  4. None of this sounds like it’s on the up and up. I mean, this is New Jersey.

    Grossi certainly does not sound like she understands we pay her salary, but that’s par for the course with all these sorts of town clown shenanigans (or county clowns, whichever).

  5. As I understand it, the volunteers at the polling places are not the same people who enter the results later.

  6. The whole think stinks of impropriety and there should be a re-vote with direct oversight by the NJ Div of Elections and utilizing working voting machines.
    The same poll workers that had to be quickly re-educated were the ones who “manually entered that district’s results from a paper backup” ?????

    ” a mistake was made and that poll volunteers quickly were “re-educated.”
    “technical reasons for the changing numbers”
    “It’s a wild imagination,” countered Grossi”
    ” election workers manually entered that district’s results from a paper backup ”
    “DEFECTIVE CARTRIDGE”
    What a joke Morris Township is.

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