TRENTON — Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s two primary challengers must be booted off the ballot because their petitions were faulty, judges ruled this week.
One petition had at least two deceased signers and nearly two thousand invalid signatures, and another had almost 300 Republican voters.
Lisa McCormick and Roger Bacon must not have their names placed on the June 8 ballot, according to orders from two administrative law judges issued on Tuesday and filed with the office of the Secretary of State, who has the final say.
A message was left Wednesday with the secretary’s office.
McCormick, a progressive who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. House in 2020 and U.S. Senate in 2018, filed a petition with nearly 2,000 signatures. Candidates for governor must get at least 1,000 signatures to get on the ballot under state law.
It was challenged by the state Democratic Committee, alleging that McCormick used a kind of automated form to fill out voters’ names. The state Democratic Committee discovered that on some lines, instead of a voter’s name, the words “First Name Middle Name Last Name” appeared. Lawyers argued it was an indication of a fraudulent scheme to merge a mailing list with the petition form.
During a hearing on Monday, McCormick did not appear or answer the challenge to her petition in writing. Five people testified that their names were on the petition despite not authorizing them to appear, and at least two signers were found to have died, according to the ruling from administrative law judge Jeffrey Rabin.
“While election laws should be liberally construed so as not to deprive voters of their political voice, the laws cannot be circumvented using fraudulent methods,” Rabin wrote. “While it might be ideal to give voters more choices in primary elections, there was no evidence in the within matter that any registered voters had displayed interest in having Lisa McCormick on their primary ballot.”
Rabin determined that none of the nearly 2,000 signatures was valid.
McCormick responded Tuesday by saying she wanted voters to write her name in on June 8. She didn’t respond to the allegations raised by the state Democratic Party or to the judge’s ruling.
Bacon’s petition was also challenged by the state Democratic Committee. Administrative law judge Joann Lasala Candido found that 305 signatures of the 1,290 submitted were invalid. Many were found to be from Republicans, who are not eligible in a Democratic primary.
Bacon said in a message that the inclusion of the Republican signers was an oversight on his part.
“As a concerned citizen I felt it was my duty to challenge incumbent Phil Murphy who had no other challengers that I was aware of,” he said.
Murphy is seeking his second term in this year’s November election, but first must recapture the Democratic nomination, typically a formality for incumbent governors who are also the heads of their political parties.