After provisional ballots were unsealed and counted on Monday, GOP newcomer Louise Johnson held a 15-vote lead over incumbent Democrat Jeff Grayzel in the Morris Township committee race.
Grayzel, who picked up two votes, said he anticipates seeking a recount of the voting machine tally and mail-in ballots.
“We haven’t given up hope… there’s a chance,” said Grayzel, a two-term committeeman who was on the short end of a 12-vote recount swing in a prior election. He is the only Democrat on the township governing body.
Johnson said she is ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work as a committeewoman.
“It’s not absolutely done, but there’s plenty of reason for optimism,” she said, referring to the outcome of last week’s election. “I think it would be hard [for Grayzel] to knock over a 15-vote lead.”
The deadline for seeking a recount of the machine- and mail-in votes is Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, said Dale Kramer, administrator of the board of elections. Such a request would be made to Superior Court Assignment Judge Thomas Weisenbeck.
“We’ll confer and see if a recount is worth filing,” said Scott Carlson, a lawyer and executive director of the Morris County Democratic organization. “In an election where nearly 7,000 people voted, we’d want the recount to make sure there was no human error or incorrectly discarded ballots.”
On election night, Carlson said, county officials discovered results from one voting machine had been counted twice. That error was corrected, he said.
After the provisional ballots were counted on Monday, Johnson had 3,419 votes to 3,404 for Grayzel. Forty provisional ballots were cast last week; seven were rejected by Morris County election officials for assorted irregularities.
From the remainder, Grayzel received 15 votes and Johnson got 13. Voters’ names were stripped from their ballots before the counting, to conceal their individual voting preferences. Provisional ballots are issued at the polling place when discrepancies arise about a voter’s registration.
Another 517 mail-in ballots–also known as absentee ballots–were cast in this election, according to Johnson. These ballots were tabulated by machines; election commissioners would recount them manually.
If such a recount chipped away at Johnson’s lead, Grayzel then would face a decision of whether to pursue a costly legal challenge to validate 24 mail-in ballots that were rejected.
Both candidates were present for Monday’s provisional count at the county board of elections in Morristown. Johnson was joined by her victorious running mate, incumbent Dan Caffrey, and by attorney Alan Zakin. County Clerk Ann Grossi also attended.
The proceedings were run by John Sette, a Republican who chairs the elections board. He delegated the actual ballot counting to Commissioner George Hanley, a Democrat.
County Democratic Chairman Chip Robinson, citing media comments by Sette about the GOP finally putting “a stake in” Grayzel, had submitted a letter to county officials asking for Sette to recuse himself. Sette stayed.
“We get here from our political parties, but when we walk through the door [at the county elections office], we work for all the citizens,” Sette said.
He characterized the recusal request as “hypocritical,” asserting that his record as GOP chairman is unblemished, while the county Democrats have been slapped with hefty fines for late filings of campaign reports with the state.