CHATHAM TOWNSHIP – Laura Ali, the Morris County GOP chair, sent out a release last week celebrating a splendid election season, including regaining control of municipal government in this affluent community. The township was once solidly Republican, but flipped recently to the Democrats.
But it will be 3-2 in the GOP’s favor come January, although the post-election path to get there was a bit choppy.
Incumbent Democrat Kathy Abbott, who was 25 votes behind Republican Mark Lois after the Nov. 2 election, wanted a recount. Her campaign last week filed a motion – and then an amended motion – in state Superior Court requesting one.
Recounts seldom change much of anything, but the 25-vote margin was awfully close.
Almost 4,500 votes were cast. This was a local issue to be sure, but more globally, Democrats have argued ever since the 2020 election that if you lose, you should graciously accept defeat and move on. From that perspective, one hoped the Abbott campaign had some compelling data to bring forth.
The challenge was withdrawn on Monday morning, just a few hours before a scheduled court hearing.
For the record, the amended complaint broadly spoke of a belief that vote tabulation errors were made.
It zeroed in on 131 “undervotes” and “overvotes.” These are paper ballots in which individuals voted for more than one candidate for township committee or none at all.
To explain further, an “overvote” would be a voter marking boxes for both candidates – Abbott and Lois. This could be a simple error, or perhaps some voters thought two seats were up. No matter what happened, those ballots don’t count.
An “undervote” is when a voter just ignored the township committee, which is plausible. Some voters may have cared only about the governor’s race.
The argument of the Abbott campaign was that these ballots deserved to be inspected by hand in case the scanner somehow failed to detect something.
OK, but this still was a long shot. Just look at the math.
There were 131 ballots in play, according to the filing. Realistically, how many ballots could the scanner not have read properly – 10, 20, 50?
Clearly, it was going to be tough to make up even a slim margin of 25.
The Abbott campaign eventually came around to the same conclusion.
So, the 2022 lineup is now set – the GOP will control Chatham Township government by a 3-2 margin.
When Abbott gave up her fight, Lois praised her – grudgingly perhaps – for dropping the challenge.
Last week, the Lois campaign was a bit less charitable. His attorney called Abbott’s request an abuse of the electoral process, adding:
“Our country is deeply divided in ways that it arguably has not been since the election of 1860 and the plaintiff contributes to that division in her borderline frivolous plea.”
1860? Chatham Township and the Civil War. Who knew?
But in the end, no shots were fired, although there was some screaming at a recent township committee meeting.