The number of vote-by-mail ballots in question in the November Asbury Park election has been reduced to 246, from 355, during a trial this week in Freehold Superior Court.
The attorney for the plaintiffs, Remond Palmer, a candidate for mayor, and Arva Council, a school board candidate, threw out 106 ballots of the 355 in question for not having matching signatures.
The trial, which began Feb. 23, will determine if there should be a runoff election in Asbury Park for the mayoral position and a new winner for a school board seat. The county Board of Elections ruled that 355 ballots were invalid in the November election. The lawsuit seeks to have the votes counted.
Superior Court Judge Dennis O’Brien ruled last month that hundreds of voters filing vote-by-ballots will have to testify during the trial. Despite a request by the plaintiffs last week to postpone the trial, the judge ruled it would proceed.
Two candidates on the unsuccessful A-Team slate in the November election, Palmer and Council, filed the lawsuit seeking to have the votes in question ruled as valid.
If about 230 out of the ballots in question are deemed valid, it will trigger a runoff election for the mayoral position between John Moor, who was sworn in as mayor Jan. 1, and Palmer.
Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn, who is a respondent to the lawsuit, said Monday and Tuesday were discovery periods in the trial where vote-by-mail ballot applications and their outside envelopes were reviewed by all involved parties, except the judge.
“Either the applications or their outside envelope flaps were voided by the Board of Elections, and these were reviewed,” she said.
Quinn said on Wednesday Palmer’s attorney threw out 106 ballots out of 355 “through their own volition” and that three were thrown out for not having matching signatures.
On Wednesday, the trial also began examining multiple signatures on ballots to see if they are valid.
Quinn said the number of ballots under review now appears to be 355 instead of 343 and, with 109 of them now deemed invalid, that number is reduced to 246 ballots still under review.
“As far as I know, if that number gets down to 229, then (the lawsuit) is over for John (and he will continue to be mayor),” she said.
If not, it may force a runoff election between Moor and Palmer.
If enough ballots are ruled as qualified, then there is also the potential for A-Team school board candidate Arva Council to be seated on the Board of Education although the number of valid ballots needed for that appear to be less than 229, Quinn said.
“I am not sure but that number may be around 180,” she said.
Moor easily defeated Palmer in the November election with 1,258 votes, or 54.53 percent, with Palmer getting 639 votes, or 27.7 percent. Judge O’Brien allowed Moor to be sworn in as mayor on Jan. 1 pending the outcome of the trial.
Under the city’s new form of government recently approved by voters, mayoral candidates must win with a majority of more than 50 percent of the vote.
The four -member Asbury Together City Council ticket, who ran with Moor, consists of Amy Quinn, Joseph Woerner, Jesse Kendle and Barbara “Yvonne” Clayton.