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Friday, September 16, 2005

Count the DAMN VOTES!



September 8, 2005 marked a sad note for Democrats in New Jersey. State Senator Byron Baer retired that day for health reasons. Since it was only in April that he had heart surgery, we can be fairly sure that health really is the reason he is stepping down.

Since I'm not a native of New Jersey, I actually had to do some research on this guy. Turns out that he won the Drum Major for Justice Award from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission last year. He was one Hell of a guy. We need more like him.

In the wake of his resignation, Bergen County Democrat Boss (Bergen County Dems may be slightly more ethical than Hudson County Dems) Joe Ferriero picked his favored replacement - former Hackensack police chief Ken Zisa. Zisa is simply one of the Bergen County revolving-door Democrats that plays "yes man" to Ferriero. He's been Assemblyman, Police Chief, head bottlewasher - now he gets to be in the State Senate.

Unfortunately for Ferriero, Loretta Weinberg challenged Zisa for the seat. Weinberg is, literally, the most liberal member of the State Assembly - and proudly so. She was also backed by Senator and Gubernatorial candidate Jon Corzine. This would prove to be a test for Corzine and his hope to reform New Jersey corruption government. So, there was an "election"

Bergen County Representative Steve Rothman was the presiding vote-counter. At the time of this writing, Zisa has won the right to take over Baer's seat immediately by four votes and he won the right to be on the ballot (without a primary) by one vote. The kicker? Steve Rothman is holding seven ballots in his pocket that would likely reverse both decisions.

The decision not to count them was made before the count ever started under rules that (presumably) both candidates agreed was fair. However, Weinberg wanted them counted and Zisa didn't. My general feeling in all such matters is that until fraud can be proven - open the damn ballots and count them. Usually, when someone doesn't want votes counted, it's because they think they'll lose if the count goes through (like Bush v. Gore, for example). I'm guessing that Zisa doesn't want the votes counted because he knows he'll lose (after all, they know exactly who submitted these signed, sealed votes).

But, Weinberg is going to appeal the vote - as soon as they know which court should hear the case. Corzine has quietly supported her this far, as have State Senators Barbara Buono and Ellen Karcher. Since there are now 21 Democratic Senators in the NJ Senate and it takes (surprise!) 21 votes to seat a Senator in these circumstance, these two women could exercise great power over the process.

Of course, we could also just open the seven votes and find out if all of this is necessary or not.

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