Two candidates on the A-Team slate who were unsuccessful in their bids for office in November in Asbury Park have filed suit seeking the counting of 343 ballots disqualified by the Monmouth County Board of Elections.
If counted, the ballots are potentially enough to trigger a run-off election between the top two vote-getters for Mayor — John Moor, who is the official winner, and A-Team candidate Remond Palmer [left].
The 343 ballots are also potentially enough for unsuccessful A-Team candidate Arva Council [right] to take a seat on the Board of Education.
Palmer and Council filed the suit which alleges that voters were not given proper notice to appear to contest the board’s actions before their ballots were disqualified. The two candidates also contest the grounds on which the Board of Elections disqualified the ballots.
Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Dennis O’Brien set an initial hearing date of January 12 on the lawsuit. He denied a request to postpone the January 1 swearing-in of Moor, as well as to postpone the seating of Carol Jones, who was certified the winner of a board of education seat.
The disputed ballots are vote-by-mail [VBM] ballots, where voters requested a messenger to bring them the ballot. The voters then sent the ballot back to the Monmouth County Clerk for tabulation.
The Board of Elections disqualified the ballots on the grounds that all those who assisted the voter in filling out the VBM application were not disclosed on the form. Palmer and Council maintain that all assistors were properly disclosed, according to the lawsuit.
The A-Team organized an effort to boost voter turnout which included providing applications to voters for VBM ballots and assisting voters with completing the application if needed, according to the lawsuit. The campaign also provided voters with the option for the campaign to return VBM applications to the County Clerk as well as providing messengers to bring them ballots, the lawsuit stated.
In the Mayor’s race, Moor received 1401 votes, Palmer 729 votes, incumbent Myra Campbell 351 votes and Harold Suggs 82 votes. Moor’s 55 percent of the vote was enough to avoid a run-off between the top two vote getters, which must be held if no candidate gets over 50 percent of the vote.
However, the lawsuit alleges that the 343 disqualified ballots, if counted, would have been cast for Palmer, thus putting Moor at 48 percent of the total vote and requiring the run-off election between him and Palmer.
In the race for three Board of Education seats, A-Team candidates and official winners Stephen Williams received 978 votes and Felicia Simmons 973 votes. Officials winner Jones received 1035 votes. Council received 784 votes. The lawsuit alleges that if the 343 disputed ballots were counted, those votes would have gone to the three A-Team candidates, with Jones dropping to fourth place and Council winning a seat.
Palmer was not able to be reached for comment Wednesday night. In an email to the Sun, Council stated that the detailed lawsuit provides answers to any questions about the legal action. She declined further comment.
Moor says it’s his understanding that the lawsuit was filed too late.
“Wow,” Moor said. “I mean, the county declared me a winner, there was a time frame to appeal it that wasn’t met and I am hearing they are just filing now, and to the best of my knowledge tomorrow I’ll be sworn in as mayor.”
The lawsuit was filed on December 16.
In the race for the remaining four city council seats, Asbury Together candidates Amy Quinn, Yvonne Clayton, Joe Woerner and Jesse Kendle were declared the official winners and are scheduled to be sworn in on January 1. Their margin of victory was large enough so that counting the 343 disputed ballots would not be enough to force a run-off election.
Last year, Asbury Park voters approved a change of government referendum, which called for the election of a new five-member council with the mayor directly elected for the first time. The mayor will continue to be a member of the five-member council. Moor, who also ran on the Asbury Together slate, had previously been elected to the council in 2013.
Dwayne D. Warren of Orange is the attorney for Palmer and Council. Warren is also the Mayor of the City of Orange.
Several county officials including the Monmouth County Clerk and the members of the Board of Elections were named as respondents in the lawsuit. Also named as respondents were various candidates for the City Council and the Board of Education.