Two candidates fail to qualify to be on upcoming ballot

Photo by Chris Sykes
Municipal Clerk Harold Wiener, left, watches as Mayor Tony Vauss, right, and his Team Irvington Strong teammates and 2018 at large Municipal Council candidates, from left, Councilwoman October Hudley, Councilwoman Renee Burgess, and Councilwoman Charnette Frederic, turn in their nominating petitions to run in the Tuesday, May 8, municipal election in January, almost as soon as the petitions became available in Wiener’s office. Their petitions were subsequently certified and now they are all on the ballot, after Wiener had a ballot drawing on Monday, March 12.

IRVINGTON, NJ — When township Master Clerk Harold Wiener had the drawing on Monday, May 12, to determine ballot positions for the municipal election on Tuesday, May 8, mayoral candidate Elouise McDaniel and her running mate for an at large council seat, Allison Morris, were not included.

“As of right now, as far as my office is concerned, Mayor Tony Vauss is 1A on the May 8 ballot, because he is running unopposed for re-election,” said Wiener on Monday, March 12. “Barnes Reid is 2B, running for an at large council seat. Incumbent Councilwoman Renee Burgess is 3B, Councilwoman October Hudley is 4B and Councilwoman Charnette Frederic is 5B. All the incumbents are running for re-election on the same Team Irvington Strong ticket. They all turned in their petitions together, prior to the filing deadline, and they all got enough of the certified to run in the May 8 election.”

But Wiener said that’s not the case for McDaniel and Morris. According to the master clerk, although they turned in enough petitions by the filing deadline of Monday, March 5, not enough of petitions were certified to qualify to run in the election.

Wiener said McDaniel and Morris each needed 292 certified petitions, but were six and four short, respectively.

However, Barnes Reid, who was also on the ticket with McDaniel and Morris, did have enough petitions certified to run.

Barnes Reid turned in 392; he only needed 292,” said Wiener. “Not all his 392 were good, but he had 292-plus. Those extra ones he submitted got him over. That’s the reason why he’s on the May 8 ballot.”

Now that Wiener has had the ballot drawing, he said he will submit the official list of candidates to the Essex County Clerk’s Office, which will print the ballots.

With regard to McDaniel and Morris disagreeing with his decision to not include their names on the ballot, Wiener said, “They probably can file an action in court, but we’re moving ahead with the process. Until I get an order from the court, that’s where we’re going. In Irvington, it’s been rare that there are challenges. That’s not to say they can’t get an order from court. It would have to happen fast. They do hear election cases fast, because it’s emergent.”

McDaniel said she has filed a legal challenge and complaint to Wiener’s decision with county, state and federal authorities and she and Morris are waiting for a hearing in Superior Court, so that a judge can decide if Wiener was right to not certify their petitions.

“We went to the federal building in Newark and filed complaints with the Attorney General’s Office, but they told us that we need to file it with the F.B.I., so we did that, too, and we filed complaints with the County Clerk’s Office and the Board of Elections and the Superior Court,” said McDaniel on Monday, March 12. “They told us that we would have to serve the legal notice of the complaints ourselves, so that’s what we did today. We served notice to Tony Vauss and Harold Wiener at 10:38 a.m. in the Municipal Building. We’re still waiting to get a court date to go before a judge, but we served them their notices and we’ll see them in court. Hopefully, a judge will see that there was no reason not to certify all our petitions, because all the people we had are registered voters.”

Vauss said the notice she served on him and Wiener wasn’t any good.

Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin said his office and the county Board of Elections are on the case.

“In the case of the municipal office candidates, the municipal clerk has access to the Statewide Voter Registration System and made the determination on his own,” said Durkin on Tuesday, March 13. “This is not unusual. There was a residency issue with a Bloomfield school board candidate last year and it went to court and the candidate won the election and proved her residency to the court’s satisfaction. Last year, Republican candidates for at-large freeholder needed 100 signatures and we certified 92 and they went to court and a judge ruled them disqualified.”

Wiener said there are many reasons why a petition might not get certified.

“There could be several things: illegible signatures; no address; but the majority is not registered to vote. It would have to be panned out in court,” said Wiener. “It’s to your advantage to file early, so that, if you’re deficient, you can correct that. Candidates can check on their own, so you know that. It’s always advantageous to file early. They’re not required to file until the deadline.”

McDaniel said she believes she and Morris will win their legal challenge.

“It’s ridiculous that we would be short by so few petitions, because the clerk decided not to certify all of the petitions that we turned in,” said McDaniel. “In one case, they disqualified a person because he moved from one address to a new one on the same street. He moved from 143 to 145. And they said that the petition that he signed was no good. There are other things like that, too, and that’s why we’re going to court, to let a judge decide whether or not we deserve to run in this election.”

McDaniel said she doesn’t want to believe that Wiener purposely did anything untoward or illegal by not certifying her and Morris’ petitions. Wiener insists he was just doing his job.

“We’ve been doing this for a lot of years and we always try to be fair to everybody,” said Wiener. “We do it the same way for everybody and we always try to be fair to everybody that files.”  

Meanwhile, Vauss said he’s running for re-election on the premise he is unopposed, although he expected McDaniel and Morris to file legal challenges to Wiener’s decision. He and his Team Irvington Strong team are running with the slogan “Team Irvington versus Everyone” and the usual motto: “One Team One Dream.”

“As of today, I’m running unopposed,” said Vauss on Thursday, March 8. “We found out that Elouise McDaniel and one of her at-large council running mates didn’t get enough petitions certified to run, so that means I’m running unopposed. The guy who was supposed to be running for an at-large seat with them on the same ticket did get enough petitions certified, so he will be running, but he’ll be running alone. He turned in 100 more petitions than he needed, but they were only for him, not his two running mates. They said they were running together as a team, but he turned in a lot more petitions than they did that didn’t include them and they wound up not making it by six petitions and four petitions. What kind of teamwork was that?”