August 01, 2008

Appellate Division:  Sea Bright Election Challenge Will Proceed

by W. Timothy Howes, Esq.

The Appellate Division of the Superior Court has rejected Maria Fernandes’s bid for an appeal the Law Division’s denial of her motion to dismiss the Sea Bright election challenge.  The voters of Sea Bright will now get their day in court.  Former Mayor Jo Ann Kalaka-Adams’ challenge will now proceed to trial.

In a victory for the voters of the Borough of Sea Bright, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court denied Maria Fernandes’s motion to stay the trial of the Sea Bright election challenge and for leave to appeal.  Nine months past election day, the Appellate Division’s decision appears to remove the last barrier to bringing the case to trial.

After a successful term as mayor of Sea Bright, Mayor Jo-Ann Kalaka-Adams ran for re-election.  The results on election day showed her challenger with a three vote lead.  Therfore, Mayor Kalaka-Adams filed for a recount.  On December 4, 2007, the recount occurred.  While there were changes to the vote total, the margin remained the same, three votes.

During the recount, Mayor Kalaka-Adams found that the polling place had closed early, denying at least two registered voters their right to vote.  Additionally, she discovered that one absentee ballot was rejected that should not have been rejected, and that as many as five non-residents voted in the election.  For those reasons, she filed for an election challenge.

Election challenges are supposed to occur very quickly.  This one has been anything but quick.  There have been two full days of depositions.  After the two full days of depositions, Ms. Fernandes filed a motion to dismiss the challenge based on a technicality.

Judge Coogan of the Superior Court, Monmouth County, heard oral argument.  The issue was briefed extensively.  Judge Coogan

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