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Atlantic City Ward 2 challenger files suit to overturn election

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A recount has not ended the battle over Atlantic City's Second Ward City Council seat.

Challenger Viana Bailey has filed to have the primary results overturned, alleging illegal votes gave incumbent LaToya Dunston the Democratic nomination.

The incumbent Democrat was bumped to Column B in the primary, in what was said to be the cost of backing Republican Vern Macon in the Atlantic County commissioners race against Democrat Ernest Coursey, the mayor's chief of staff.

Democratic Councilmen Bruce Weekes and George Tibbitt also went against Coursey in what became a growing rift between the councilmembers and the mayor.

The party censured Dunston, Weekes and Tibbitt as a result.

Dunston has been a vocal political foe of Mayor Marty Small.

When Dunston declared a three-point victory in the race against Bailey in June, Small told BreakingAC that "the election is far from over, and they know it."

A recount doubled Dunston's lead to six votes. But the final 303-297 tally includes votes that should not have been counted, Bailey claims in a lawsuit filed Friday.

The filing alleges illegal votes included those who do not meet residency requirements, improper use of disability certificates and at least four mail-in ballots that were not completed by the voters.

The 14 voters it alleges do not meet residency requirements would be enough to overturn the election, the filing claims.

Five of those votes are among seven the lawsuit claims voted with Dunston's address as their residency. A total of 11 voters list home as the councilwoman's address, it states.

The suit also names Small's one-time political ally turned long-ago foe Craig Callaway.

Callaway assisted in filling out at least 26 of 35 disability certificates, which the suit claims were completed by voters without swearing or affirming to a disability.

The filing asks that either the election be overturned with Bailey declared the winner or a special election be held for the Second Ward.

Dunston referred comment to her attorney, who could not be reached over the weekend.

New Jersey Globe said the lawsuit exposes the fragility of New Jersey’s already tight election calendar.

Bailey filed her challenge on Friday — within the lawfully permitted time — but the county clerk’s deadline to prepare the general election ballot for printing is Monday, and must commence mailing vote-by-mail ballots by Sept. 23, the Globe wrote. Part of the delay was caused by local Board of Elections members whose vacation schedule punted the recount for two weeks after the judge ordered one.


Lynda Cohen

Lynda Cohen founded BreakingAC after working as a local newspaper reporter for more than two decades. She is an NJPA award-winner and was a Stories of Atlantic City fellow.

Sunday, May 19, 2024
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