Morristown and Morris Township candidates file for recounts

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Candidates (from left) Matheu Nunn and Bruce Sisler, incumbent Republicans; and Democrats Jeff Grayzel and Cathy Wilson, at the Morris Township 2015 committee debate. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
ONE MORE TIME?  Democrats Jeff Grayzel and Cathy Wilson, on the right half of this picture, want a recount. Republicans Matheu Nunn and Bruce Sisler (left) won re-election to the Morris Township committee in a close race in 2015. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

By Kevin Coughlin

Democrats in Morristown and Morris Township on Wednesday requested recounts in hopes of reversing narrow defeats in this month’s local elections.

The simpler case involves Justin Davis, who lost to Republican Councilwoman Alison Deeb by just 8 votes in Morristown’s Fourth Ward.

“In this day and age, there’s always room for error…a judge shouldn’t have any issue ordering a recount,” said Richard Dunne, the attorney hired by the Morris County Democratic Committee to pursue recounts in both municipalities.

Councilwoman Alison Deeb defeated Democratic challenger Justin Davis by 8 votes. Davis seeks a recount.
Councilwoman Alison Deeb defeated Democratic challenger Justin Davis by 8 votes. Davis seeks a recount.

In his filing with the Superior Court in Morristown, Dunne cited technical glitches and poll worker errors in the contest for two Morris Township committee seats.

Democrats Jeff Grayzel and Cathy Wilson finished third and fourth, respectively, losing to incumbent Republicans Matheu Nunn and Bruce Sisler.  Grayzel missed clinching a seat by 23 votes. Out of 8,937 ballots cast, only 74 votes– 0.8 percent of the total–separated all four candidates, Dunne said.

recountAt the Convent Station voting place, poll workers may have segregated Republican and Democratic voters for at least the first hour on Election Day, compromising the privacy of voters.

Later, the county clerk’s office acknowledged the malfunction of a cartridge  from a District 1 voting machine.

Information from that cartridge had to be entered manually… which somehow erased mail-in votes. Those counts also had to be restored, Dunne noted in his filing.

If approved by a judge, recounts would examine everything, from voting machine tallies to whether “mail-in ballots were rejected properly or improperly,” said the attorney, who also chairs the Hanover Township Democratic organization.

“It’s a long shot, but if you’re like Justin, where 8 votes separates you and competition, it’s absolutely worthwhile,” Dunne said.

The Morris County GOP will not oppose the recounts, said Republican Chairman John Sette.

“We believe in democracy. We would never object,” he said.

Grayzel appeared to hold a one-vote lead late on election night. He expressed concerns when that vote evaporated while County Clerk Ann Grossi was meeting with the Republic candidates. The clerk said the timing was coincidental; Republicans regained the lead when the cartridge malfunction issues were resolved, she said.

“Only after the recount is complete and the election is re-certified by the county clerk will Cathy and I determine if any other actions need to be taken,” Grayzel said via email on Wednesday.

This would be at least his third recount for Grayzel.  In 2006, a recount pushed him from an 11-vote winner to a 1-vote loser. But a judge ordered a new election, which Grayzel won in 2007.

Last year, a recount found votes that had not been tabulated electronically. These new votes were spread evenly among the candidates, however, so Grayzel and Wilson still lost.

While he can’t predict the outcome, Grayzel expressed confidence that once again, the numbers will change.

“Examining the mail-in ballots manually, as opposed to the initial optical reader used on election night, will definitely yield a different vote count,” he said.

“This is because some voters do not fill in the entire circle on the paper ballot and the optical reader does not pick up markings such as check-marks. But as long as there is clear ‘voter intent’ when the ballot is filled out then the vote will be counted.”

Davis, who also is getting guidance from former Jersey City Mayor Gerry McCann, said he is optimistic.

“You never know what you will find,” said Davis, the assistant chief of staff for state Sen. Richard Codey. 

You never know when you will find it, either. Davis’ recounting may have to wait awhile. His wife, Emma, is due to give birth to their third child any day now.

MORE FROM THE 2015 ELECTION

 

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Copyright 2015 MorristownGreen.com

3 COMMENTS

  1. Mr. Stone, all four candidates were at the County Clerk’s office on election night; both slates of candidates were afforded the opportunity to speak to the Clerk. Indeed, Mr. Grayzel was present with an attorney and the Democratic County Chair, Chip Robinson. Still further, Mr.Robinson’s mother was at Morris Township Town Hall earlier in the evening when the duplicate set of district-by-district totals arrived (the other set of numbers go to the County). Simply put, Mr. Grayzel knew earlier that evening what the results were because Mrs. Robinson had the vote totals from the Municipal level. But for an error with the County uploading theme totals to the website, we would only be talking about a very close election.

    That said, I certainly do not begrudge their request; they owe it to their supporters. However, the backdrop to this should be presented to our residents in a factual way.

  2. Lewis.. don’t you know? There are no Democrats in Morris County Government… You cannot get anything done around the County (or the Freeholders) unless you’re a Republican…
    There are no Public Servants here.. Just a long line of “more of the same”….

  3. Whether the results ultimately change as a result of the recount is only part of the issue at hand.
    Why any County Clerk – regardless of party affiliation, meet with only representatives from on party is beyond comprehension. Our elected officials need to look at their jobs as public servants first, and party members second.
    What is more worrisome is the erosion of public confidence in the election process. County employees as well as employees at all levels of government, need to realize that if faith in the election process is of paramount importance. Ms. Grossi should have had to good sense –when asked to be in a private meeting, to “Just say No!”

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