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NJ ELEC: Judge Can't Overturn Freeholder Race

Says such a reporting violation has never before caused a result to be turned out.

There's been a long road leading to the nomination of a Republican candidate for Morris County Freeholder in this year's election. And that road isn't at its end.

Last week, the county's Republican Committee held a s.

The special election occurred only because a judge had just t, whose own victory had been similarly razor-thin. The judge ruled a campaign donation reporting violation and testimony about voter fraud in Parsippany made the election results invalid.

But Monday, the  New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission said it wants to intervene in the court case, because, according to ELEC executive director Jeff Brindle, "no election has ever been overturned because of a 48-hour filing violation."

The action comes on a day when ballots were being prepared with Nordstrom's name on them. She won the special county committee vote 213-208.

Brindle said that the court's ruling could jeapordize ELEC's ability to enforce campaign finance laws. He said the law court has no authority to impose such a penalty for a filing violation that occurs regularly in New Jersey elections.

"The lower court's ruling has the strong possibility to negatively affect the ability of the commission's legislative mandate of primary jurisdiction"—that is administering the Campaign Reporting Act—Brindle said in a letter to the state appellate division.

In the motion to the court, ELEC said that the ruling has the potential of creating "chaos" among candidates and their campaigns.

The request means that one more set of hearings could delay the eventual verification of a GOP freeholder candidate, to face Democrat Truscha Quattrone in November.

The appeals court has twice rejected emergent appeals by Lyon's campaign, but the overall appeals case is pending.

Lyon of Montville appeared to have a 10-point lead over Nordstrom of Washington Township after the primary election. After a recount, the margin dropped to six votes, but Nordstrom filed an election contest.

Nordstrom argued that Lyon's father made an illegal $16,000 campaign donation that hadn't been properly reported—and said that if she'd known about the donation and the last-minute fliers it funded, she would have countered with her own campaign materials. Her attorney also pointed to testimony suggesting 32 votes were cast illegally in Parsippany.

Superior Court Assignment Judge Thomas Weisenbeck nullified Lyon's victory, saying the factors casting doubt on the election's integrity "satisfied the remedy sought by the petitioner, i.e. setting aside the election."

Weisenbeck said that the $16,000 contribution, far above the legal limit of $1,200, represented 79 percent of the funds available to the campaign, and without the legal notice, Nordstrom was unable to adequately respond to an attack flyer.

The judge said that Nordstrom's testimony revealed "how significantly this failure to file impacted her campaign strategy. ... Given the excessive contribution from (Lyon's) father, it can not be said that his candidacy and election were free from illegal acts."

Weisenbeck said ELEC lacked the statutory authority to impose the remedy of an overturned election. He did, however, refer the matter to the election panel for review.

In its motion for intervention, ELEC said the law does not allow for the overturning of an election as remedy for a 48-hour violation.

"This is vastly inconsistent with the monetary penalty" in place, ELEC said. The maximum fine under ELEC is $6,800 per offense.

Lyon's attorney, Sean Connelly, said ELEC in essence agreed with his side's interpretation of the law. He had argued that the campaign contribution and filing violations were under the preview of ELEC, not the Superior Court,

Connelly said he was disappointed the appeals court turned down the second emergent appeal.

Nordstrom's attorney, Alan Zakin, said that he had no problem with ELEC seeking jurisdiction over the issues that commonly come before it. But Weisenbeck had ruled there were two issues before him—the illegal votes and the improper contribution.

Zakin agreed with Weisenbeck that ELEC can not overturn an election for such concerns unless the candidate received at least $50,000 in contributions and the funds had a significant impact on the election.

Bindle said that ELEC has never imposed that penalty.

anybodybutchristie September 26, 2011 at 11:36 PM
This isn't rocket science. The judge overstepped his authority. ELEC will prevail in the end.
Karin Swenson Szotak September 27, 2011 at 10:41 AM
Well by the time all the dust settles, will any GOP name be listed on the ballot in November? Although not a supporter, I am glad to see that the voters weren't disenfranchised.
jerry stevenson September 27, 2011 at 11:53 AM
Karin....for those of us who requested from the County Election Board a "Vote by Mail Ballot" we received the ballot this past Saturday. Margaret Nordstrom was listed as the Republican camdidate for County Freeholder.
Maxim Sapozhnikov September 27, 2011 at 12:39 PM
There could have been an illegal contribution involved - to the judge. Can we hope to see him reprimanded or disbarred any soon, or the fix will be in again?
Dan Grant September 27, 2011 at 02:59 PM
ELECT"S position is pretty much what I said from the beginning. Sneak attacks from illegal campaign contributions may not be ethical or honest but the fact that a candidate either can't or won't fire back is not a matter that should overturn an election. As ELECT pointed out it has never been cause to overturn an election. The remedy is always a fine. In this case I don't believe the illegal contributions came from anything other than the lack of knowledge of the candidate. Would it have made a difference if Hank Lyon had the legal funds to do the mailings? It is all speculation and the only thing that matters here is the vote totals. As I told the young man and his father. "You was robbed".
MadInNJ September 27, 2011 at 05:03 PM
Was wondering when ELEC was going to wake up and realize that a judge was usurping their authority.
Tommie Gilbert September 27, 2011 at 05:54 PM
It kills me that so many of you are OK with something even you say is ethical or dishonest, so long as your candidate wins. Have you ever considered that those past elections that involved law breaking SHOULD have been overturned? Lyon, Nordstrom, I don't care. I care about integrity, and this proves the system--save for one judge--does not. And apparently, neither do many of the voters. Sad.
Karin Swenson Szotak September 27, 2011 at 07:36 PM
Jerry, so does that mean they will have to be reprinted and mailed again? If people already voted and sent them in, do they get to vote again? Sounds like the situation continues to get messier as we get closer to November. Makes me wonder if the election in November will be contested as well and not to mention how much money was spent on all of this. Perhaps we should all get a tax break instead.
anybodybutchristie September 28, 2011 at 02:13 AM
Tommy, What so many of us care about is the law. It's not about what should have happen; it's about what can happen (legally). If you don't like it change the law. Your ridiculous, sanctimonious swipe is what's sad.
Ed September 28, 2011 at 09:00 AM
See it's not just the democrats.
Thomas Lotito October 06, 2011 at 06:09 PM
Max, that's an unsubstantiated allegation, it's never even entered into the conversation. You sound like a bomb throwing, conspiracy believer
Thomas Lotito October 06, 2011 at 06:11 PM
Dan who cares what you think about the out-come of a Republican primary, you're a Democrat.
Dan Grant October 06, 2011 at 06:23 PM
Thomas, That difference between us is that I participate in democracy and you are a partisan. Someone is going to win in November and as a citizen I care who the candidates are no matter which side they are on. Of course I will support the Democrats but if you care about the issues and are a citizen you wahnt the best possible candidates on both sides. You don't and that is the ultimate downfall of your position.
Thomas Lotito October 06, 2011 at 07:42 PM
Cut it out Dan, You're an unelectable Democrat form Montville. and you're a Democrat meddling in a Republican primary. And for your information, America is a Republic.
Dan Grant October 06, 2011 at 07:59 PM
LOL, Tom you could never have accomplished what I have. I don't think you ever put your name on a ballot to my knowledge. I have friends on both sides and we respect our differences and for a guy who is unelectable I managed to spend 15 years in office. What is your record?
Domino October 06, 2011 at 11:33 PM
Dan, you need to understand that Washington Township is filled with "keyboard leadership"; you know, the feckless ranters and whiners that have never accomplished anything in their lives and live vicariously through people like Mrs. Nordstrom.

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