Grayzel files for recount in Morris Township election

Republican Louise Johnson holds a 17-vote lead over Democratic incumbent Jeff Grayzel. Provisional ballots will be counted on Monday. Montage by Kevin Coughlin
Republican Louise Johnson holds a 17-vote lead over Democratic incumbent Jeff Grayzel. Provisional ballots will be counted on Monday. Montage by Kevin Coughlin
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Republican Louise Wilson holds a 17-vote lead over Democratic incumbent Jeff Grayzel. Provisional ballots will be counted on Monday. Montage by Kevin Coughlin
Democratic Committeeman Jeff Grayzel is seeking a recount in hopes of overturning a 15-vote victory by GOP newcomer Louise Johnson in Morris Township.  Montage by Kevin Coughlin

 

Hoping that lightning will strike twice, Morris Township Committeeman Jeff Grayzel has asked for a recount.

The Democratic incumbent seeks to overturn his 15-vote defeat by Republican newcomer Louise Johnson, whose election on Nov. 4, 2014, if upheld, would return the governing body to complete GOP control.

Grayzel was on the short end of a recount in 2006, but he challenged the results and prevailed in a court-ordered special election.

“History has shown that a recount can change the result of a local election,” Grayzel said in a statement on Wednesday shortly after his request was filed in Superior Court, Morristown. “I hope the result of the recount will find me retaining my seat on the Township Committee.”

Alan Zakin, attorney for the Republicans, said Johnson would not oppose the recount.

“We are confident that once the recount process is complete, the certification of victory in favor of Ms. Johnson will stand. She looks forward to continuing to work with Dan Caffrey and the remaining Committee to bring the most efficient, effective government to Morris Township,” Zakin said via email.

Grayzel’s request was filed with Superior Court Assignment Judge Thomas Weisenbeck by attorney Scott Carlson, executive director of the Morris County Democratic organization.

The Democrats seek a recount of 517 mail-in ballots, and of the machine tally. Carlson said he is particularly interested in learning why 24 of the mailed ballots were rejected. Votes-by-mail are scanned by machines, which is why, he said, a manual recount is prudent.

Carlson also cited an election mix-up this month that he said underscores why the voting booth totals also should be double-checked. Results from one voting machine were reported twice by mistake, he said, while an adjacent machine was not counted at all. Those miscues were discovered quickly and corrected, he said.

“Understanding this process is susceptible to errors like that, we want to make sure the vote counts are reflected accurately,” said the lawyer, who was awaiting a hearing date from Judge Weisenbeck.  A call to the judge’s office was not immediately returned.

Grayzel’s hard-fought victory in 2007 made him the township committee’s first Democrat since 1973; later he became the only member from his party to win twice.  With 50 percent of the votes cast in this month’s municipal election, Grayzel said he fared better than many Democrats nationally in what was a presidential midterm.

The Republicans’ campaign tried to tag Grayzel for the defection of Honeywell, which is moving its world headquarters to Morris Plains after two years of zoning battles with township neighbors.

During the race, Johnson touted her fiscal experience as an executive with a Fortune 500 company. A hand-count of provisional ballots last week added two votes to Grayzel’s total.

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