Johnson lead holds after Morris Township recount; Grayzel may play one last card

Committee candidate Louise Johnson pauses from Morris Township committee recount; Morris County Elections Commissioner George Hanley keeps working. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Committee candidate Louise Johnson pauses from Morris Township committee recount; Morris County Elections Commissioner George Hanley keeps working. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Morris Township Committeeman Jeff Grayzel went into Monday’s recount trailing GOP candidate Louise Johnson by 15 votes.

And that’s how he came out.

Committeeman Jeff Grayzel, left, peers at mail-in ballot scrutinized by Morris County Board of Elections Chairman John Sette, at Morris Township committee recount. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Committeeman Jeff Grayzel, left, peers at mail-in ballot scrutinized by Morris County Board of Elections Chairman John Sette, at Morris Township committee recount. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“The result today was discouraging. We were hoping to close the gap significantly, and that didn’t happen. Our chances of winning have diminished significantly,” said Grayzel, who plans to play one last long shot.

He said he will explore why 31 ballots — 24 ballots-by-mail and seven provisional ballots cast at polling places — were rejected.  The answers will determine whether he seeks a court order to unseal those ballots.

“We welcome any effort by Mr. Grayzel or any other residents to ensure that a fair and valid election occurred,” said Alan Zakin, the attorney representing Johnson.

Zakin added: “Louise is very pleased to be able to put the election behind her and move forward,” working with her fellow Republicans “to provide efficient effective government to Morris Township.”

Monday’s recount of the Nov. 4 election actually found five new votes for Grayzel. But it also found five more for Johnson.

The Morris County Board of Elections spent more than two hours meticulously re-counting 513 mail-in ballots at the county’s voting machine warehouse in Cedar Knolls.

Committee candidate Louise Johnson pauses from Morris Township committee recount; Morris County Elections Commissioner George Hanley keeps working. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Committee candidate Louise Johnson pauses from Morris Township committee recount; Morris County Elections Commissioner George Hanley keeps working. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

These ballots initially had been scanned by a machine, which apparently had difficulty deciphering a few of the marks entered by voters.

Two extra ballots were found, said Grayzel, who speculated that perhaps they had gotten stuck together during the scanning process.

Commissioners John Sette, George Hanley and Helen O’Connor also checked printouts from 46  voting machines against the numbers reported on election night.

No changes occurred there, according to Grayzel, who is the only Democrat on the township’s governing body.  He has been pursuing a third term,  a victory that would be without precedent for his party. But Republican newcomer Johnson, a business executive, had other ideas this fall.

Grayzel’s first election in 2007 followed a recount and court-ordered runoff.  Earlier this month, a recount of provisional ballots narrowed Johnson’s lead by two votes.

Now, Grayzel conceded, his odds are “a whole lot slimmer.”   But his lawyer said it’s still worth the effort.

“In an election this close, you want to know that every ballot was considered,” Scott Carlson said.

 

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