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Candidate acting as own lawyer in Pleasantville school board election challenge rests case
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Candidate acting as own lawyer in Pleasantville school board election challenge rests case

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Doris Rowell

Doris Rowell, who is challenging the Pleasantville school board elections over alleged misuse of the vote-by-mail system by supporters of her opponents, is acting as her own attorney in the case.

The Pleasantville Board of Education candidate challenging November’s school board election rested her case before Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez on Wednesday, after showing him about 50 ballots she considered proof of fraud.

Doris Rowell was last in court March 10, before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down courtrooms, and elected to wait until courtrooms reopened to finish the case rather than participating in an online hearing.

“All I want really is for you to ... see those 50 ballots that kind of made me lose the race at the last minute. I feel they should be thrown out,” Rowell said in a courtroom at the Atlantic County Civil Court House in Atlantic City.

Mendez gave all parties 10 days to submit written testimony and will issue a decision sometime after that, he said.

Rowell, who won by hundreds of votes at the polls in November but lost narrowly after almost 700 mail-in votes arrived for each of her opponents, acted as her own lawyer.

Rowell has alleged that members of the Callaway family of Atlantic City and Pleasantville misused the vote-by-mail system to defeat her and get their own candidates elected. The president of the school board is Carla Thomas, the niece of Craig Callaway, a Democratic power broker in the area.

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Craig Callaway has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

“I want to be on the Pleasantville school board to help move the district forward. The only way our kids will ever sit in the seats you’re sitting in is if they get the right education,” Rowell said.

She said education won’t improve in Pleasantville unless “you have the proper people on the school board.”

Rowell is running again for the school board, she said. She has run three times before, each time winning at the polls and losing after vote-by-mail ballots are counted.

Rowell took testimony from school board member Jerome Page, with whom she ran in November as a team. Page was re-elected.

Earlier this month, Page said, another school board member failed to live up to his responsibilities and had to leave the board. Rowell put in an application to be considered to be appointed to the board. But rather than choosing Rowell, most existing board members chose to give the seat to another Callaway-related candidate who got fewer votes in 2019 than Rowell did, Page said.

The vote-by-mail ballots looked at Wednesday either had signatures that did not match those on file for the voters or were dated as being received at the last minute — often brought in by bearers with ties to a political organization she says has acted improperly against her.

Often the ballots that had signatures that did not match had been rejected by the Atlantic County Board of Elections. But Rowell said they showed a concerted voter fraud effort.

Contact: 609-272-7219

mpost@pressofac.com

Twitter @MichelleBPost

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Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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