IRVINGTON, NJ — Prospective mayoral candidate Elouise McDaniel meant it when she said, “it’s not over” on Tuesday, April 3, after Newark Superior Court Judge Tom Vena determined she and Allison Morris, her at large Irvington Municipal Council running mate, failed to have enough nominating petitions certified to get on to the ballot for the municipal election.
On Thursday, April 5, McDaniel and Morris attended the Irvington NAACP’s monthly meeting with a petition, asking registered voters to join them in protesting Vena’s ruling.
The two were required to file 292 valid nominating petitions by the deadline on Monday, March 5, but municipal clerk Harold Wiener said McDaniel was short by six petitions and Morris was short by four, so did not have enough to become official candidates.
McDaniel and Morris filed an appeal with the Newark Superior Court, requesting a show cause hearing in order to present their arguments as to why their petitions should have been certified, allowing them on May 8 ballot.
Their first hearing before Vena was Friday, March 16, but since no one from the township or the Irvington Clerk’s Office showed up, it was rescheduled for Monday, April 2. This time, Wiener attended with township attorney Ramon Rivera, and Vena ruled against McDaniel and Morris.
“We went to court and we were denied our chance of going on the ballot, so this is a petition going around to say what has happened and what is going on and what we’re trying to do: to get on the ballot and make a positive change in Irvington,” said Morris on Thursday, April 5. “We were denied, so we’re putting out a petition, so all the citizens can know what happened and they can get involved and know that we are still fighting the good fight.”
McDaniel echoed Morris’ sentiments and called the judge’s decision unfair.
“I called the U.S. Department of Civil rights and they are working with us, because the judge didn’t give us a fair decision. Our petitions were there and we should have been put on the ballot, but we were not. So this petition is going around to just let everybody know what’s happened, and we’re going to forward it to the United States Department of Civil Rights,” McDaniel said.
“They’re saying that we had signatures of people that were not legal voters, but they were legal registered voters. … They’re residents, voters living in Irvington, and their petitions were denied, which was unfair and the judge was unfair for throwing them out.”
In McDaniel’s opinion, Judge Vena appears to have misinterpreted state law.
“He wanted Miss Morris and myself to show cause, when we were not supposed to show cause. But the township clerk, Harold Wiener, was supposed to show cause as to why he rejected these legal petitions,” McDaniel said. “I was told to send this petition by the U.S. Department of Civil Rights and this is just the reason why we’re doing it.”
Morris agreed with McDaniel, saying, “The burden of proof laid on the attorney, Ramon Rivera, and also the clerk, Harold Wiener, to show cause why they did not put us on the ballot.”
Morris said she will be joining McDaniel on the streets to collect enough signatures for their petition to get federal authorities to open an investigation into their complaints.
“We’re gonna walk the streets,” McDaniel said. “We’re going to cover the township, just like we did when we got our petitions signed. We’re going right back to all of those people and get them to sign.”
Rivera could not be reached for comment about the petition by press time this week, but he previously stated that, as far as the township was concerned, the case is closed.
Vena “dismissed both of the cases with prejudice, which means that they can’t file again,” said Rivera on Tuesday, April 3. “I believe he got it right. He did a thorough analysis of all the facts and the law and he concluded that Ms. McDaniel and Ms. Morris failed to meet the required number of petitions to get on the ballot. They failed to give evidence to support their claim that their petitions should have been certified and they should be on the May 8 ballot.”