Provisional count narrows outcomes–slightly–in Morristown, Morris Township elections

Provisional ballots are counted in Morristown, almost a week after the Nov. 3, 2015, election. Photo by Jeff Grayzel
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STRATEGIZING: From left, consultant Gerry McCann, Morristown candidate Justin Davis; Cathy Wilson, who ran in Morris Township; Scott Carlson from the Morris County Democratic Organization, and Township candidate Jeff Grayzel. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
STRATEGIZING: From left, consultant Gerry McCann, Morristown candidate Justin Davis; Cathy Wilson, who ran in Morris Township; Scott Carlson from the Morris County Democratic Organization, and Township candidate Jeff Grayzel. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

By Kevin Coughlin

When provisional ballots were counted on Monday, the gap narrowed between winners and runners-up in last week’s local elections in Morristown and Morris Township, fueling talk of full-blown recounts.

Justin Davis, who lost to Councilwoman Alison Deeb in Morristown’s Fourth Ward, said he plans to ask a Superior Court judge for a recount. The deadline to apply is Nov. 18, 2015.

Morristown Councilwoman Alison Deeb, with her Seeing Eye puppy, Fenton; and Ken Miller from the town historical commission. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morristown Councilwoman Alison Deeb, with her Seeing Eye puppy, Fenton; and Ken Miller from the town historical commission. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Jeff Grayzel, who finished third in a four-way race for two Morris Township committee seats, said he is studying whether to pursue a recount as well. The former committeeman has been down that road at least three times bef0re.

Provisional ballots are cast when questions arise at the polling place about a voter’s registration or address. After Monday’s tabulation at the Morris County Board of Elections in Morristown, Deeb’s margin over Davis decreased from 11 votes to 8 votes, according to Davis.

In the Township race, Committeeman Bruce Sisler’s lead over Grayzel was narrowed from 29 votes to 23 votes.

“We’re going to follow the numbers and see where it takes us,” said Davis, a Democrat who was accompanied Monday by former Jersey City Mayor Gerry McCann.

“We’re talking about an 8-vote election. That’s close. I guarantee we’re going to find something. The question is how much,” said McCann, who consulted for Toshiba Foster in an unsuccessful election challenge in Morristown’s Second Ward in 2011. Foster later was elected to an at-large council seat.

Deeb, a Republican, attended Monday’s provisional ballot count, accompanied by Ken Miller of the Morristown Historic Preservation Commission.

“It’s Essex County injecting themselves into our town,” said Deeb, referring to Davis’ ties to McCann, and to state Sen. Richard Codey, who is Davis’ employer. Deeb said she only spent one-third as much as her opponent. “The residents spoke. This is our town,” she said.

A recount would involve comparing the vote tallies on voting machines with the number of voters who signed in at polling places, to see if there are discrepancies. Votes-by-mail and absentee ballots also would be scrutinized to ensure that those voters were registered properly, and that nobody voted more than once.

Another factor in Morris Township may involve a polling mistake at Convent Station. On election morning, a poll worker instructed voters to use separate machines for Democrats and Republicans–compromising voters’ rights to cast secret ballots.

Township Democrats must determine how many voters were affected before county officials set pollworkers straight — and whether to ask a judge for a new election because of the snafu.

Provisional ballots are counted in Morristown, almost a week after the Nov. 3, 2015, election. Photo by Jeff Grayzel
Provisional ballots are counted in Morristown, almost a week after the Nov. 3, 2015, election. Photo by Jeff Grayzel

The provisional ballots were tabulated by Election Commissioners George Hanley, Helen O’Connor and John Sette.

In the Township count, a total of 17 provisional ballots were opened. Three more were rejected, and not opened.

Ten of the ballots were cast for Grayzel and Cathy Wilson, both Democrats. Four were cast for Sisler and top-vote Matheu Nunn, incumbent Republicans.  Two ballots were cast both for Wilson and Nunn, and another was opened and found to be empty, Grayzel said.

Township Democrat Jeff Grayzel, left, and Scott Carlson of the Morris County Democratic Organization listens to former Jersey City Mayor Gerry McCann discuss recount strategies in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Township Democrat Jeff Grayzel, left, and Scott Carlson of the Morris County Democratic Organization listen to former Jersey City Mayor Gerry McCann discuss recount strategies in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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