Alleging issues with absentee ballots, electronic voting and former residents voting illegally, Springfield Republicans have filed an official contest of election with Superior Court.
James Foerst, the attorney representing the party, said that legal documents questioning the results of the election were filed this week. Following a recount earlier this month, the margin between Democrat Margaret Bandrowski and Republican Jerry Fernandez was reduced from five to four. After reviewing ballots and other election materials, Foerst and his clients believe that there are enough votes in doubt to change the final results.
Most of the alleged voting irregularities stem from the extraordinary circumstances caused by Tropical Storm Sandy. Foerst said that three mail-in ballots were not counted and that residents who attempted to vote electronically were not able to do so due to the technical problems with the county clerk’s office.
“Despite their attempts to vote electronically, they were disenfranchised because the county could not accept their vote,” Foerst said.
In addition, he said his clients have found over a half dozen votes cast by former residents ineligible to vote because they moved away from Springfield.
“They are not legal votes,” he said.
Foerst said that that Superior Court Judge Lisa F. Chrystal, the judge in charge of elections, is expected to review the documents calling for a contested election on Monday, Dec. 31. Foerst said he is arguing that Judge Chrystal should order Springfield to refrain from swearing in Township Committee members and to instead hold a second election.
Bandrowski is set to take the oath of office at Springfield’s annual reorganization meeting on Jan. 1. She said that while she understood why the Republicans are pursuing these legal actions, she was confident she had won the vote.
“They are doing what they feel they have to do and they have the right to exhaust all their legal options,” she said. “However, since the election results have been twice certified, we expect to be sworn in on Tuesday and to serve.”
Former Springfield Township Attorney and Freeholder elect Bruce Bergen said that while he recognized the Republicans are entitled to request court intervention, he questioned whether pursuing legal recourse was in the best interest of Springfield.
"There may have been a close race for one seat, but clearly the voters of Springfield have spoken with a loud voice in rejecting the prior administration," Bergen said in an email. "At some point, in any race, you need to just accept the results and move on. I would suggest now is that time in this contest."