MONTCLAIR, NJ - Nearly 1100 ballots remain uncounted in Montclair's Municipal election that took place in May of 2020. With less than 200 votes separating this decision establishing the next Montclair mayor, the winner's opponent has legally challenged that determination.
A GoFundMe page has been created to help offset the costs of legal fees for former 4th Ward Councilor Renee Baskerville's challenge to the vote count of the May 12, 2020 Montclair Municipal election, organizers announce.
On May 16, it was determined by the Essex County Board of Elections, that former 3rd Ward Councilor Sean Spiller was Montclair's new Mayor. Spiller, who also serves as Vice-President of the NJEA, New Jersey's most powerful teacher's union, has expressed that he trusts the electoral and judicial process.
Spiller, in a May 31 interview with TAPinto, said the record turnout was a testament that the system works. “When you talk about 11,000 or so ballots cast and 56 didn’t make it in by election day, I think that’s pretty darn good.”
Following the election, Baskerville asserted that more than 1000 ballots remained uncounted, due to what Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin called, 'irregularities'. She has also stated that since she has identified at least 15 people from various wards across Montclair, who all state that their ballots should have been counted because they did everything correctly and mailed it in by the deadline, then that should be enough evidence to overturn the election decision.
The unique circumstance in this election was that there had never been an all mail-in ballot vote, ever. However, due to COVID-19 New Jersey state officials determined that it was too risky to allow in-person voting. Durkin has since placed voting containers in Montclair and other communities, similar to a secured mailbox, specifically designed to collect ballots, to mitigate any future vote concerns.
Irregularities can include signature differences, not properly completing the ballot, or lack of certification. In addition, Baskerville and other concerned residents have also asserted that the post office had closed 4-hours earlier due to COVID-19 lockdown. The concern remains that no one was notified, in advance of these time changes, which took place for two consecutive days prior to the election.
Baskerville and Spiller ran in a two-person mayoral race. She has since vowed to challenge the vote count due to numerous discrepancies with mail-in ballots. Her first hearing took place May 29 and she is set to return for a second hearing on September 11, 2020.
Baskerville said, "On May 29, 2020, on behalf of fifteen named plaintiffs, and other identified and yet to be identified plaintiffs who were voters in the April 21-May 12, 2020 Montclair Non-Partisan Municipal Elections, I filed a complaint in the New Jersey Superior Court, in an effort to get the State of New Jersey to ensure that every ballot cast is fully and fairly counted."
On July 1, during the Municipal swearing-in ceremony, Baskerville joined the Montclair NAACP and the League of Women Voters outside prior to the start of the ceremony, to protest and raise awareness about the vote irregularities.
At the time of publication, more than $2000 of the $5000 goal, had been raised since starting less than a week ago.
The caption of the fundraiser reads:
"Dr. Renee Baskerville is raising funds to guarantee the democratic ideals of this nation, which are based on the notion that every legitimate vote counts. Unfortunately, in the municipal election in Montclair, New Jersey held on May 12th, that promise was broken. 1,100 ballots in the Mayoral election remain uncounted to this day. In an effort to make this right, Renee is preparing for an upcoming hearing on September 11th to determine if they will count the votes. This hearing was scheduled after Renee and her team successfully petitioned the Supreme Court of New Jersey to review her case based on the merits."