William “Bud” Ravitz is not ready to admit he got licked in last month’s Morris Township committee election– which he calls Gluegate.
On Monday, the Democrat’s lawyer asked the state to order a recount of 42 provisional ballots that were rejected because their envelopes were unsealed.
A recount last week of everything except those ballots widened the lead of incumbent Peter Mancuso — the lone Republican on a governing body that was all-GOP only two years ago–to 15 votes.
Affidavits obtained from 16 of the 42 voters contend they followed poll workers’ instructions, and deserve to have their votes counted, Ravitz attorney Scott Salmon said in a letter submitted electronically to state Deputy Attorney General George Cohen.
“In multiple cases, the voter attempted to seal the ballot but was unable to do so because of issues with the glue. In some instances, those voters were instructed to give the unsealed ballot to the poll worker, who placed it in the bag given to the poll workers by the Board of Elections,” Salmon wrote.
“In others, they were told tape would be used to seal the ballot at a later point. Ms. Kramer informed me at the recount that the bag was sealed when it was delivered that night, thus completing the chain of custody,” he said, referring to Morris County Elections Administrator Dale Kramer.
In Township voting District 7, among other places, Salmon continued, “the voters were specifically instructed by the poll workers not to seal the ballot. Even those who had no issues sealing the ballot have signed affidavits stating that they gave their sealed envelopes to poll workers, so if the ballots were later unsealed prior to being placed
in the bag, it was the poll workers’ fault.
“If they became unsealed while in the bag, then the glue appears to be the likely culprit. Should someone’s sacred vote be discarded because of bad glue?”
Anyone who voted by mail in the last election was required to vote that way 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 last month, they were told to fill in provisional ballots instead.
Morris County had thousands of provisional ballots–including approximately 170 in Morris Township. For 42 of those to be unsealed, “that is a high number,” observed county Clerk Ann Grossi.
Ten vote-by-mail ballots also were rejected in this race, for an assortment of reasons.
Salmon called it “horrifying” to think an election could turn on shoddy glue or poorly trained poll workers.
He asked for a state response by Tuesday. Ravitz has until Thursday to challenge the election in court, his attorney said.
Salmon said he had asked Kramer to include an examination of the rejected provisional ballots in the Nov. 25 recount, and was dismayed when county election officials informed him they did not feel compelled to do so by the recount order signed by Superior Court Judge Maritza Berdote Byrne.
That recount double-checked results from 46 voting machines, as well as votes by mail. The tally was 3,196 for Mancuso, who seeks his seventh term, and 3,181 for Ravitz, who moved to the Township three years ago.
The total represented a gain of two votes for Mancuso from a prior recount. On Nov. 12, provisional ballots and mail-in ballots postmarked on Election Day (Nov. 5) were hand-counted by county Board of Elections commissioners. Mancuso’s margin stood at 13 votes after that tabulation — down from his 48-vote lead on Election Night.
“I presume this has a lot farther to go,” Mancuso, 82, said on Monday night. The retired New York Stock Exchange governor said it’s hard to predict what’s in the rejected provisional ballots. “The right thing is the right thing,” he said.
Though it would be nice to overturn the results, Ravitz said, more is at stake.
“It’s really about making sure everybody’s vote counts,” said the 58-year-old AT&T manager.
While committee control is new to Morris Township Democrats, the idea of recounts is not.
Mayor Jeff Grayzel lost three recounts–though one was so close that a judge ordered a new election, which Grayzel won in 2007.