By DON STINE
ASBURY PARK – Vote-by-mail ballots rejected by the Monmouth County Board of Elections during the May 14 Asbury Park City Council election will remain unopened, a Superior Court judge ruled July 18.
Superior Court Judge Dennis R. O’Brien ruled that the 252 unopened ballots will remain that way after hearing several days of testimony on the matter.
It is possible that the results from the disputed ballots may change to outcome of the election and it is expected that O’Brien’s decision will be appealed.
On Tuesday County Clerk M. Claire French testified about the process of issuing absentee and vote-by-mail ballots while elections board Commissioner Christine Hanlon testified why her office reject up to 252 vote-by-mail ballots.
Hanlon testified that the ballots were reviewed by her office staff and “red tagged” if it was felt any inconsistencies or errors were apparent.. She said red-tagged ballots were then reviewed by a four-member board on the May 14 City Council election day and rejected if the board felt they were not valid.
“We saw the same handwriting over and over again on many ballots and that always raises a red flag,” she said.
Hanlon said that many ballots that normally require the signature and information on the person assisting in submitting the ballot, or the assister, were lacking the appropriate signatures or information.
“We believe many were not done properly,” she said.
The challenge was filed by Daniel Harris III, who ran unsuccessfully for a council seat on the A-Team campaign. Harris is seeking the counting of 332 vote-by-mail ballots and 32 provisional ballots that were deemed ineligible by the Board of Elections.
The headquarters of the A-Team was raided by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office just prior to the May 14 election, supposedly looking for illegal absentee ballots and other related information in their office, located on Asbury Avenue, across from the Mt. Carmel Catholic church.
Harris’ suit also alleges that the Prosecutor’s Office removed 115 vote-by-mail applications and failed to turn them over to the appropriate agency so those voters would receive ballots. The suit alleges that those voters never received the ballots and were disenfranchised.