Candidates running on a Bernie Sanders platform in Middlesex County and Legislative District 17, which includes a portion of Somerset County, filed a lawsuit today against Elaine M. Flynn, Middlesex County Clerk, seeking injunctive relief to ensure a fair election. The Central Jersey Progressive Democrats have repeatedly sought a copy of the printing proof of the mail ballot, as well as a determination of candidate ballot placement on both the voting booth version of the ballot and the mail ballot. The Clerk’s office has refused to provide proofs of the mail ballot, despite election law requiring the office to do so and a statutory deadline for the Clerk to begin mailing ballots this Saturday. In addition, the candidates are seeking relief from the capricious decision of the Clerk to place them in Column C in the middle of the ballot, despite having ample room on the far left-side of the ballot in Column A. On the lawsuit, State Senate Candidate for LD-17 issued the following statement:
“The Clerk’s refusal to provide proofs of ballots that are to be mailed to voters this weekend defies logical explanation. The law clearly states that the dealine for the preparation of official primary election ballots for printing is 50 days before the election, which this year was April 17th. Taken with Ms. Flynn’s irrational decision to place our entire slate in Column C, when Column A is available and was publicly and verbally indicated by the Clerk as the logical place to put our slate during the ballot draw earlier this week, we cannot rule out that the Democratic Party is employing similar tactics to those used by the DNC to tip the scales unfairly against Bernie Sanders in the Presidential primary last year. Our Party and all voters in the county deserve better. The County Clerk, of all people, should know the law and follow it to the letter.
“Preserving the rights of voters to have a complete and accurate ballot is essential to our democracy. We call on all of the candidates, regardless of party, to urge the Clerk to release the printer’s proofs of the mail ballot immediately, and adhere to the law that provides a five day review period before it is printed and mailed.
“We are concerned that the mail ballot, as we have been informed by staff in the Clerk’s office, appears substantially different to voters than the ballot that voters see on a machine located in a polling place. We are asking the Court to compel the Clerk to provide the same ballot to all voters, regardless of how they vote.
“Finally, we are asking the Court to order the Clerk to put our nearly 100 bracketed candidates in the first available column, which is Column A. When ballot positions were randomly drawn on April 17, the Clerk and her staff indicated verbally that Column A would be the likely location of Central Jersey Progressive Democrats. Others in the room, including veteran State Senator, Sam Thompson (R-Middlesex), concurred that Column A was the logical place for the nearly full slate of candidates. Ms. Flynn’s office is now claiming that the CJPD’s nearly full slate should be placed to the right of a full slate of candidates. Conveniently, only the Middlesex County Democratic Organization filed a complete slate, and will appear in Column B.
“You have to do some impressive mental gymnastics to come up with that reasoning. It is not only capricious, it specifically favors incumbent candidates over all others.We will argue that it is preferential treatment for the county machine and that is neither fair nor warranted under the law. Machinations like these benefit incumbents and deter working people from running for office. They are intolerable and must be opposed.
“The Democratic Party should be concerned that even the appearance of insider, backdoor, machine political ploys turn people away from participating in our Party. The Party needs to stand up for working people, not billionaires and millionaires; it can’t do that when its own officials stand in the way of voter participation and free and fair elections. Our candidates represent the diversity and strength of Middlesex County, and voters in the greatest county in the land should not be denied the right to vote for them by the Clerk’s capricious and illegal maneuvers. We will continue to fight for our democracy and the principles of free and fair elections, even if other leaders in the Party do not. Perhaps they have not noticed that the word ‘democracy’ appears right in the Party title.”