Peter Mancuso’s bid for a seventh term on the Morris Township Committee was upheld by a 13-vote margin over Democratic newcomer William “Bud” Ravitz on Tuesday, after last-minute mail in votes and provisional ballots were counted.
But Democrats said they plan to challenge that outcome because 42 provisional ballots and 10 mail-in votes were rejected by the Morris County Board of Elections because the ballots were unsealed.
“We’ll have a victory party when it’s totally official,” said Mancuso, 82.
Initially, he appeared relieved when the tally in the board’s Morristown office appeared to show he had held onto the lone Republican seat on the Township governing body. “Thank God!” he said.
When the polls closed on Election Night, Mancuso had a 48-vote lead, which narrowed on Tuesday.
“We are not conceding anything yet,” said Ore Obiwumi, political director for the Morris County Democrats.
“We don’t want anyone’s vote thrown out because a poll worker forgot to seal it,” added Scott Salmon, who represented Ravitz, a 58-year-old AT&T manager, at Tuesday’s proceeding. Township Democratic Chairman George Quillan said the deadline to request a recount is Nov. 22, 2019.
The unsealed ballots still have identifying information on them, and a judge could ask voters to verify their votes, said Dale Kramer, county administrator of elections.
There was a surge of provisional ballots across the county, because of confusion over a rule change from the state Attorney General’s Office, said county Clerk Ann Grossi.
Anyone who voted by mail in the last election was required to do so again, unless he or she specifically opted out of that process. When prior mail-in voters who were unaware of this rule tried to cast their votes at polling places, they were stopped and told to fill in provisional ballots instead.
With some 40,000 votes by mail in Morris County, that led to a lot of provisional ballots–approximately 170 of them in Morris Township. For 42 of those to be unsealed, “that is a high number,” observed Grossi.
The mail-in ballots counted were those postmarked on Election Day and received within 48 hours.
Democrats also were puzzled by nine “no votes” –three mail-in ballots and five provisionals that were left blank. The votes were scrutinized by four county election commissioners– Democrats Matt Clarkin and Laurie Fiero Brownstein and Republicans John Murphy and Diana Rochford.
In other races, Dover Alderwoman Carolyn Blackman held her slim margin of victory over Mayor James Dodd, and the victories of Democrats Joan Goddard and Nancy Verga were upheld for Morris Plains council after provisionals and last-minute mail-ins were tabulated.
Mancuso, a retired governor of the New York Stock Exchange, is the last Republican on a Morris Townshio committee that was all-GOP just two years ago. He said the present board members work well together. It’s the election drama he could do without.
“Next time, I’ll win by a couple thousand votes,” he deadpanned.