Attorneys and a judge suggested Tuesday the Parsippany Township Council's Republican primary race could have been tainted by voter fraud Tuesday—adding another twist to a court battle over who really won the GOP's primary for Morris County Freeholder.
Superior Court Assignment Judge Thomas Weisenbeck on Wednesday will question statistician James Carroll—whom Attorney Sean Connelly said would be able to sort through a statistical analysis and show William "Hank" Lyon should be declared the Republican nominee for Morris County freeholder on the November ballot.
Connelly is defending Lyon in an election contest brought by incumbent Freeholder Margaret Nordstrom of Washington Township, who trails Lyon of Montville by six votes in counts so far. The winner will face Democrat Truscha Quatrone in the general election.
After a long discussion Tuesday, Weisenbeck said he would allow Connelly to present Carroll as an expert witness in statistics, even though Nordstrom's attorney, Alan Zakin, protested that Carroll had no experience analyzing election data.
The back-and-forth between the judge and the attorneys raised what Weisenbeck called "the underlying issue" of the freeholder's election—that there could have been criminal activity related to the local primary election held in Parsippany last June.
Four Republicans—Michael dePierro, Brian Stanton, John Fox and Vincent Ferrara—ran as "Team Parsippany" in the June primary. All but Fox, an incumbent, were nominated.
Testimony last week by Parsipanny election operatives whom Connelly said Tuesday were working for Team Parsippany suggested there might be 75 illegal ballots from that town. One runner, Jiga Shah, testified last week that he collected 32 ballots from Parsipanny residents, the judge recounted Tuesday.
Connelly said Tuesday that Carroll would be able to explain to the court, via a statistical analysis, that the majority of 12 disputed absentee ballots discussed in court last week would have been cast for Nordstrom. Carroll said that if those were illegal ballots, Lyon would be declared the winner.
Weisenbeck was skeptical. He said that those 12 Parsippany voters—all senior citizens from a single Parsippany Road housing complex—testified that they had signed forms requesting absentee ballots, but had not voted. But in testimony last week, county Board of Elections officials testified that absentee ballots in the names of the 12 residents had been recorded.
The judge Tuesday said the issue with those ballots is that the court does not know, and can not detemine, those 12 voters cast ballots in the freeholder race.
Weisenbeck asked Zakin how that finding related to the lawsuit's charge that there was voter fraud that clouded the outcome.
"We'll say that it is impossible to determine," Zakin said.
Asked by Weisenbeck what would be a possible outcome, Zakin said the judge could order a new election. Zakin said that with the potential illegal voting in Parsippany—along with a charge that Lyon's father, who was also campaign treasurer, made an illegal $16,000 contribution that Hank Lyon failed to report on his finance report to the state just before the election took place—the judge could rule that the original primary vote was tainted.
The judge, by law, could rule that Lyon's apparent victory is voided if the illegal campaign contribution charge is upheld.
With that said, Weienbeck questioned Connelly on how Carroll could help the court sort out the issue.
Connelly said that the unifying factor in the issue was votes cast for Team Parsippany, and that Carroll would explain how statistics would show that the majority of those Team Parsippany votes could have been cast for Nordstrom.
"The underlying significant issue is the voting for and against Team Parsippany," the judge said.
But, he said, that was not enough of an issue. He noted that in the analysis Carroll presented to the court, Carroll said Lyon also received votes from ballots where Team Parsippany candidates received votes.
The judge said he would examine Carroll's credentials and theories Wednesday before deciding if he would be allowed to testify as a witness.
The attorneys are expected to summarize their cases Thursday morning.