Petitioners request recount on ward totals

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

EDISON — Count them again. That was the message that officials got last week when petitioners filed a formal request for a recount. Residents had lobbied to get a question placed on the Nov. 4 ballot to ask voters whether the township should switch to a ward system of government

When the initial count of the votes for and against the switch to a ward system was tallied, the question failed by approximately two dozen votes.

The formal request for a recount was filed with Middlesex County on Friday, said William Stephens, a ward petitioner and former councilman.

"When 6,000 people go out there and say we’re not happy and we need to have representation, I think we owe it to them [to make sure the vote was correct]," he said.

The township needs equal representation for all of its citizens regardless of where they live within the township, he said.

"We’re concerned with machines that may have malfunctioned," Stephens said. There were many people who contacted the petitioners to say that their votes may not have been counted.

The petitioners are concerned that there may have been some voting irregularities, specifically that machines may have malfunctioned and that some people may have voted illegally, he said.

The petitioners are expecting the recount to take about two or three weeks, according to Stephens.

The Edison Township Clerk’s Office had not received anything from the county as of Monday morning, but expected to have the formal request from the county by the afternoon.

The petitioners feel the ward system was not adopted by the residents because the competition outspent them the week preceding the election, said Kevin Duffy, a ward petitioner.

He cited letters sent to senior citizens and the Indian community telling them to vote against the system.

If the township had voted to switch to a ward system, a separate question put before voters would have increased the number of elected council people from seven to nine.

The wards would have been drawn up by members of the Middlesex County Board of Elections and Municipal Clerk Reina Murphy.

Since the township has a population of about 100,000 people, each of the five wards would have had about 20,000 people living in them. The people living in each ward would elect one ward council person and four at-large council members.

Administration officials said they feel the community was given adequate information about the ward system and made its decision not to change the form of government.

"While I welcomed the public discussion on whether Edison should change to having a ward council, all of us, regardless of our position, must embrace this outcome," Mayor George A. Spadoro said in a written statement issued the night of the election.

The ward system issue cannot be put back on the ballot for four years if the question has not been passed, said Louis Rainone, township attorney.

The petitioners will continue to attend Township Council meetings, Planning and Zoning Board meetings and "will continue to fight for equal representation for the people of Edison Township," Stephens said.