January 09, 2008

A Victory for Democracy

Ballots that were signed by Roselle Councilman Jamel Holey

APPELLATE DIVISION UPHOLDS DANSEREAU VICTORY IN ROSELLE ELECTION! Cites "rampant statutory violations" of the handling of absentee ballots by Roselle Councilman Jamel Holley and other members of the Bullock campaign

The players:

Judge John Malone former Democrat Chairman, whose wife works for Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage was originally assigned to the case and threw it out. He claimed Dansereau’s argument was “convoluted, contradictory and confusing.” A Superior Court appellate panel, reversed Judge Malone’s decision to dismiss the case. They ruled that Malone was too narrow and restrictive in his view of the law in dismissing the matter.

Jamel Holley admitted there were "minor procedural issues" with the way some of the ballots were collected, but at the time, contended they should not have been invalidated. "In some instances, people left it for me to pick up. You don't invalidate someone's vote because of something minor like that," Holley said. Worrall Community Newspapers 1/9/08

"I won fair and square," "Sometimes disappointment hurts. She (Dansereau) needs to do something positive for the community." Said Rosemary Bullock immediately after the election. The Star-Ledger

"This is a victory less for me, and more for the people," says Councilwoman Christine Dansereau. "It is a victory for democracy." 1/8/08

January 8, 2008
Contact: Renée Steinhagen, Executive Director, New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center, 973-735-0523/ Diana H. Jeffrey, Esq. Director of Government Accountability Program, 973-981-5862

Roselle, NJ - The Appellate Division issued an opinion today affirming a lower court's ruling that "improprieties" on the part of Rosemarie Bullock's campaign workers necessitated the invalidation of 31 absentee ballots cast for Bullock in the 2006 primary for the Borough of Roselle's 5th Ward council seat. Those invalidated ballots voided Bullock's victory, resulting in Christine Dansereau emerging as the winner of the primary. After Bullock filed an unsuccessful emergent appeal of that decision, Dansereau went on to win in the general election. Bullock then appealed the lower court's decision, asking the court to reverse the lower court's ruling, install her as the winner and/or invalidate the election results and hold a special election.

The appellate court upheld the trial court's finding that there was extensive mishandling of absentee ballots by Bullock campaign workers. Stating that "It is clear the statutory requirements for voting a valid absentee ballot were not followed here, and the deficiencies were more than the technical violations," the court went on to describe the various ways in which Bullock campaign workers' activities violated election laws. "The record is rampant as to the statutory violations," writes the court, pointing to evidence of Bullock campaign workers in some instances appearing to have cast the ballot for the voter; and in many other instances, carrying unsealed voter materials outside of the voter's presence. Testimony of the "haphazard manner of delivery of the absentee ballots pervaded the trial," says the court, describing for instance how some voters testified that they had never met Roselle Councilman Jamal Holley or did not know who he was, but his name appeared as the bearer of their absentee ballots. "The majority of the voters had no idea how their ballots ultimately got to the Election Board. . .somehow, their ballots ended up at the Board, twenty-three of them signed by Holley."

The court rejected Bullock's argument that the trial court lacked sufficient evidence to rule that the invalidated absentee ballots had been cast for Bullock. Citing the "extensive testimony of the direct involvement of other Bullock campaign workers throughout the voting process of these invalidated absentee ballots," the court ruled that "The circumstantial evidence was overwhelming that the absentee voters whose ballots were invalidated by the court cast ballots for Bullock. Given the evidence of the vigorous pursuit of absentee voters by the Bullock campaign and the skewed numbers in the overall absentee count in favor of Bullock, that most likely was a valid conclusion."

"This is a victory less for me, and more for the people," says Councilwoman Christine Dansereau. "It is a victory for democracy."

"This ruling serves as an unambiguous shot across the bow to campaign workers everywhere. Illegal election schemes like this one undermine our guarantee of free and fair elections." says NJ Appleseed's Director of Government Accountability Programs Diana H. Jeffrey, Esq., "The clear victors today are the people of Roselle."

For more information, contact Renée Steinhagen, Executive Director of New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center at: New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center, 973-735-0523, rsteinhagen@lawsuites.net, www.njappleseed.net, or Diana H. Jeffrey, Esq., Director of Government Accountability Program, 973-981-5862, DHJeffreypilc@aol.com.