Ravitz asks judge to order count of rejected ballots in Morris Township committee race

William "Bud" Ravitz. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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The voters have spoken. Now, a judge must decide how many of them are heard.

William “Bud” Ravitz, a Democrat who lost last month’s Morris Township committee race by 15 votes to Republican incumbent Peter Mancuso, on Thursday filed a lawsuit contesting the outcome.

Ravitz wants a judge to order the Morris County Board of Elections to count 52 ballots –42 “provisional” ballots given to voters at the polls, and 10 mail-in-votes–that were rejected because their envelopes were unsealed.

The claims defective glue has disenfranchised these voters, whose ballots could reverse the outcome, Ravitz believes. The court papers include affidavits from 16 voters who contend they followed proper procedures and had difficulty sealing the envelopes.

Morris Clerk Ann Grossi at Morris County Clerk 'Wall of Honor' ceremony, April 18, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morris Clerk Ann Grossi at Morris County Clerk ‘Wall of Honor’ ceremony, April 18, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Morris County Clerk Ann Grossi also is named in a civil rights complaint, alleging she stripped voters of their right to vote by providing faulty envelopes.

Grossi, who is a lawyer, said she has not yet been served with the legal papers and declined to comment on the case.

Additionally, the suit asks for the vote of Gillian Elise Goldberg be counted. Her vote was rejected because of “mismatched signatures,” a situation Goldberg corrected previously, according to the lawsuit.

At stake: Total control of Morris Township’s governing body. Two years ago, it was all Republican.  If Ravitz’ challenge is successful, and Mancuso is denied a seventh term, Democrats will hold all five Township committee seats for the first time.

Thursday’s late afternoon filing came right at the deadline, 10 days after a recount of everything but the rejected ballots showed Mancuso ahead by 15 votes.

Peter Mancuso, the lone Republican committeeman, at Morris Township reorganization, Jan. 2, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Peter Mancuso, the lone Republican committeeman, at Morris Township reorganization, Jan. 2, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

On Election Night, Mancuso held a 48-vote lead. That prompted a count of provisional- and last-minute votes-by-mail (votes postmarked on Election Day and received within 48 hours), which whittled the margin to 13 votes. Mancuso gained a couple of tallies in the Nov. 25 recount.

Provisional ballots were given to anyone who voted by mail in the prior election and attempted to use a voting booth this time.

Ravitz, 58, is an AT&T manager who moved to the Township three years ago. He called the experience an education.

“For the first time out, it’s been a real lesson in American civics,” he said. “Nobody expected such drama. But here we are.”

While the outcome matters, the principle is more important, Ravitz said. His lawyer, Scott Salmon, echoed that theme.

Stack of ballots at second Mancuso/Ravitz recount, Nov. 25, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“We’re trying to get all the votes counted,” Salmon said. “You shouldn’t be disenfranchised because of bad glue on an envelope.”

“All I want is a fair and honest, transparent hearing, which is in the best interests of all the citizens of Morris Township,” said Mancuso, 82. He is a retired governor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Filed in Superior Court, Morristown, the legal challenge is being financed by the state Democratic committee, represented by attorney Rajiv Parikh.

Along with Ravitz, plaintiffs include the state and county Democratic committees, and voters Nancy Berns, Robert A. Agrusti, Odete Eiger, Linda Koch, Alicia Benjamin-Stennett, Alexandra Stennett and Angel Vega.

Grossi, the Board of Elections and unspecified election officials are listed as defendants. In addition to the ballot count, reimbursement of legal fees and court costs is requested by Ravitz’ side.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. JT – do you have any proof that voter fraud (not disenfranchisement, which is rampant and documented) exists at any scale in this country? I’ve yet to see any legit study showing it’s a problem.

    Now Georgia, that’s a problem, hundreds of thousands of valid voters kicked off the roles in a partisan effort to swing an election, but that’s fraud by taking away a right, not anyone impersonating someone else.

  2. It is virtually impossible to exist as an adult in our society without some form of photo ID, so to suggest that a widespread swath of the population does not have it is simply ridiculous. Voter fraud does exist and requiring ID is not discriminatory, the same as its not discriminatory to get a cell phone or a library card.

  3. Voter fraud is virtually non-existent (see brennancenter.org). Adding hurdles to the voting process, such as requiring ID, only makes it discriminatory. The real problem in protecting the vote is the risk of unreliable and hack-able voting machines. All voting should be by mail or on voter-verified paper ballots, with random audits of election results. To protect our democracy and our rights, we should make it easier to vote, not more difficult.

  4. What happens to that absentee ballot when a college student moves, homeowners move, renters move, people die? No one is keeping an eye on those ballots. It leaves the door open for voter fraud. Absentee voting was originally created for service people not living at home. Let’s also go back to showing ID before voting. You need six ID points for a license, ID to purchase cigarettes, ID to purchase liquor, ID to fly, ID to enter most office buildings, ID to purchase firearms and until recently ID to make credit card purchases Aren’t our elections as important than these activities? Let’s get smart.

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