HOLMDEL, NJ - Yes it's 2019 all over again and the lawsuit of the election of 2019 appears to finally be concluded.
Monmouth County Judge Kathleen Sheedy had responsibility for the case. After nine long months of little activity, the election lawsuit involving Township Committee candidate Chiung-Yin Cheng Liu and Committeeman Prakash Santana has ended.
Sheedy conducted trial on Zoom on September 21 September 22 and September 24. A list of Holmdel political names were included such as Dimaso, Pascucci and Balmer. Also included was Frank Lucarelli, who testified that he assisted his mom in submitting her ballot.
Following the general election, Liu had three more votes than Santhana. On December 5, 2019 the Monmouth County Board of elections conducted a recheck of the machine votes and recounted mail in ballots and provisional votes.
As a result of the recount the election changed. The results of the election were 2087 votes for Santana in 2085 votes for Liu. Following that was Cathy Weber at 2170 and Eric Hinds at 2066.
The lawsuit presumed that certain votes should have been counted and others should have been disqualified. Based on the litigation, Liu sought to disqualify the votes for Alana DiMaso and Rocco Pascucci among other voters. Presumably, the votes from DiMaso and Pascucci and Balmer were not for the Republicans as the Republican Party has been split for some time. DiMaso is a family member of Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso, part of one political faction that aligned with former Committeeman Mike Nikolis, who lost his election during the 2019 Primary and lost another run for election during the 2020 Holmdel Municipal Committee Election this past June.
Ultimately, Sheedy allowed the votes for DiMaso and Pascucci, ruling that they were living in Holmdel (see link to suit for details and other names under dispute).
There were three other decisions that had impact by Sheedy. All involve the rejection of ballots.
Sheedy tossed out the vote for Carole Balmer since Sheedy determined that Balmer lived in Middletown and was not eligible. Balmer was anticipated as a vote for Independent candidate Santhana. That changed the vote total to only a single vote between the candidates. A vote by Donna Carranante (assumedly for Liu) was also rejected because of a date stamp issue. Oddly enough, the rules for 2020 would have allowed her vote to count.
Then came longtime Holmdel resident and voter, Mrs. Dolores Lucarelli.
Dolores Lucarelli has been involved in the town for decades. Her late husband served on the Township Committee and her son DJ just won election with Greg Buontempo in November 2020. If her vote counted, there would likely be a tie between the two candidates as her vote was assumed to be for Liu by the plaintiff. That could have resulted in a special election.
However, Sheedy tossed out Lucarelli's ballot since she could not verify Dolores Lucarelli's signature. Lucarelli passed away in March of 2020 and no testimony could have been provided. Her son, Frank Lucarelli, testified that she did in fact complete her ballot by herself but that he signed it for her. The judge stated, "Certainly, if she completed the entire ballot she could have and should have signed the ballot as the statutes require." The judge did not address the intent of Dolores Lucarelli, a senior citizen and long time resident.
You can read the judge's decision by clicking on our link to the Judge's Decision
Weber and Santhana's terms are up for election in 2022.