Two lawsuits filed by candidates affiliated with the “Change for Children” ticket in the Jersey City Board of Education race are seeking to get former Trustee Matt Schapiro’s seat on the November 5th ballot, as well as to get one candidate back in the race.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
The first lawsuit, filed by candidates Anthony Sharperson and David Czehut in Hudson County Superior Court on Tuesday, argues not only should Schapiro’s seat be on the ballot – making a total of five seats up for grabs instead of four – but they should’ve been allowed to run as part of the same slate.
“Plaintiffs are now forced to change their campaign approach in light of the County Clerk’s decisions to prohibit them from running under the ‘Change for Children’ bracket and to exclude Schapiro’s unexpired term from the ballot,” the suit says.
The suit also claims that not placing Schapiro’s vacated seat on the ballot was “arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable and contrary to law.”
The court filing also indicates that Hudson County Clerk E. Junior Maldonado would not allow Sharperson and Czehut to register under the Change for Children banner since they are both seeking one-year terms on the board.
The lawsuit contends that if Schapiro’s seat was on the ballot, voters would be able to select two candidates to serve one-year terms on the board instead of just one.
“We are filing this action to re-enfranchise the voters of Jersey City. Voters choose their representatives, not just eight board members. The rights of the voters must be respected,” Sharperson said in a statement.
“This is a time when we need more democracy, not less. The message I’m hearing from Jersey City families is clear: They want to elect school board members who are focused on
ensuring an excellent education for our children. Let’s do what’s right for both voters and our children and let Jersey City residents choose their advocates,” added Czehut.
For the time being, both candidates are officially running as independents in the 11-person field.
As HCV first reported, the BOE is currently poised to appoint their fourth trustee in the past 12 month to fill Schapiro’s seat on August 26th, though the former official said he believes the board intentionally didn’t submit his resignation to the county clerk’s office to ensure only four candidates would be on the ballot.
Additionally, a second lawsuit filed by Alexander Hamilton says that he should be allowed to be a 12th candidate on the ballot since he submitted 192 signed petitions for nomination to the county clerk’s office (only 10 valid signatures were required).
However, he was disqualified from appearing on the ballot since the name on his birth certificate is Vernon Alexander Hamilton, despite being identified as “Alex Hamilton” on his social security card and household bills.
The clerk’s office previously justified their decision by noting that his name on his passport is “Vernon Alexander Hamilton” and also is identified as “Vernon A. Hamilton” on his driver’s license, as well as the fact that his voter registration lists him as “Vernon A. Hamilton.”
In an August 1st letter to the clerk’s office, Hamilton says that he wasn’t given any additional time to resubmit the petitions and explains the reasoning behind collecting signatures in the way he did.
“Please know, I was named after my father whose name is Vernon, and my mother, whose maiden name is Alexander. Hence I am Vernon Alexander Hamilton. However, my mother decided before I could speak, there would NOT be two Vernons in HER house,” he wrote.
“From that moment, decades ago, I’ve used ONLY ‘Alexander’ and ‘Alex.'”
Hudson County Superior Court Assignment Judge Peter Bariso will be hearing both matters tomorrow and is expected to make a ruling in each case.
As it stands today, eight Jersey City BOE candidates are seeking three-year terms this fall, while three candidates are seeking one-year terms and only Asheenia Johnson and Noemi Velasquez are formally running under the Change for Children banner.