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UPDATED: Cwerner Seeking School Runoff Election with Priti Shah

Cost of special election unknown. Former school board member seeks to challenge disqualification of two votes.

Former school board member Bev Cwerner, whose two-vote loss to candidate Priti Shah was again certified in a on May 19 at the county Board of Elections Office, will seek to challenge the disqualification of two votes in court, her attorney announced on Friday evening.

If a state Superior Court hearing upholds Cwerner's contention that two absentee votes were "erroneously" rejected as valid by the Board of Elections, then the election would be tied, and a runoff election between the two candidates should be scheduled, attorney Kevin Orr said in an email sent to the Basking Ridge Patch.

INFO. ADDED: When asked on Tuesday, School Business Administrator Nick Markarian said he does not know the cost for a special election. He said the April 27 school election cost the district $6,500 _ including poll workers' salaries and use of the voting machines _ but he added he does not know if the cost of a more limited election would be less.

Markarian said he had never conducted a runoff election in this district, or another.

The certified vote count from the April school election now stands at 1,193 votes for Shah, and 1,191 for Cwerner, who was an incumbent candidate.

Cwerner said on Tuesday morning she not want to add to the words of her attorney.

Orr said the Board of Elections had "erroneously" concluded that the signatures Won two absentee ballots were not the same as the signatures on the voters' records, and had rejected those ballots. "Both voters have since attested that they, in fact, signed their own ballots," and joined as petitioners in a court action that on Friday had been filed by Cwerner, Orr said.

Earlier on Friday, Cwerner had filed a petition with state Superior Court in Somerville, seeking to set aside the vote certification for Shah, Orr said. He said Superior Court Judge Yolanda Ciccone had set a court date of June 7 to determine whether the challenge for the vote petition will proceed to a trial on June 9.

If a tie is declared, the result would be a special runoff election between Cwerner and Shah, Orr said.

"School Board election laws provide that any runoff must occur within 60 days of the original election, by June 27, 2011," Orr said in an email.

In unofficial results released on April 27, Shah had trailed Cwerner, an incumbent candidate, by 17 votes for the third of three positions available on the Board of Education this year. Two other candidates, Linda Wooldridge and incumbent Susan McGowan, had decisively been elected to two seats, in an election where nine candidates had competed for three spots on the school board.

After counting provisional ballots submitted on election day, the Board of Elections had with a four-vote lead. That lead was later reduced to had not been counted, and Cwerner filed a court motion seeking a recount, performed by hand at the county Board of Elections in Somerville.

Shah already was sworn onto the along with Wooldridge and McGowan.

At that time, school Business Administrator Nick Markarian said the school board would comply with an revisions to the results as determined by the county Board of Elections and law.

HG June 02, 2011 at 08:54 PM
Actually "n", the assertion is that the voters followed the directions and "the Board of Elections had 'erroneously' concluded that the signatures on two absentee ballots were not the same as the signatures on the voters' records, and had rejected those ballots." If the assertion is true, these voters used a legal form of voting in a proper manner. Should they just shrug their shoulders and walk away? Would you?
Miles June 02, 2011 at 09:56 PM
n - I have been voting by mail for ten years and have NEVER had my ballot rejected because of my signature, so spare me the lecture on "follow the directions, word for word". I'd like to have my vote counted, just as yours was.
BR June 03, 2011 at 01:23 PM
Mail in votes are not "2nd class votes", they count equally as those votes taken at the polls. They are generally used by people who cannot or will not miss time at work to vote, those who cannot leave their home, those away for business or pleasure, and military men and women who are elsewhere in the world....preserving the right to vote.
n June 03, 2011 at 07:18 PM
Absentee votes are treated like 2nd class votes. Of course they are equal to any other legal vote, but they get much more screening than ones cast at a polling place, because they are prone to be tampered with easier and since the State has loosen the qualifications in order to get more people to vote, expect more people to have problems.
Lori June 03, 2011 at 10:57 PM
2nd class votes? ridiculous. by the way, there has never been ANY screening when I have voted at the polling booth. They just ask my name......no I.D. or verification. Pretty easy to vote multiple times, if you wanted to.

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