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.