A recount for Perth Amboy City Council creates a mess for election officials trying to turn around a December 15 non-partisan municipal runoff for mayor and two council seats.
Vanessa Bermudez, who is 189 votes behind in her bid for one of four runoff berths, told the New Jersey Globe that she would file for a recount.
It’s not clear whether a judge will grant a hand recount, a process that will take longer than running more than 14,000 ballots through an optical scanner again.
Three-term Mayor Wilda Diaz will face Helmin Caba, a city councilman and Democratic municipal chairman, in a mayoral runoff.
Junior Iglesia and Bernadette Falcon-Lopez, who ran with Diaz, and Caba running mate Rose Morales, appear to have secured runoff spots.
The other Caba slate member, Bienvenido “BJ” Torres leads Bermudez, 4,096 to 3,907.
It’s also unclear whether any of the Board of Education candidates will seek recounts. Just 166 votes separate four candidates for two seats. There are no runoffs in school board races.
Election officials are on an extraordinarily short runway to hold a December 15 runoff, even if the election is certified by Friday’s deadline.
They need to hold a drawing, print and mail ballots, install drop boxes, set up polling locations and get voters to cast another ballot in a 25-day period.
Now a possible recount challenge by Bermudez could delay the date of the runoff. The deadline to file a recount is Friday, the day Middlesex County election officials are expected to certify the results.
The recount could mean a hand count of more than 14,000 ballots over Thanksgiving week, but would almost certainly force a postponement of the December 15 election.
It’s not clear whether a judge would move the election to December 22, three days before Christmas, hold it between Christmas and New Year’s Day, or schedule a vote in January.
Either way, it seems unlikely that the election would be over this year.
Diaz’s term expires on January 1 and City Council President William Petrick would become Acting Mayor until the results of the runoff are certified.
Petrick would become Perth Amboy’s first white mayor since George Otlowski resigned in 1990.
Caba and Fernando Irizarry both gave up their city council seats to run for mayor. It’s possible that the city council would appoint the two as caretakers until the runoff is certified.
Diaz finished the first round of voting with 4,927 votes (33%). Caba finished second with 4,499 (30%), 888 votes ahead of attorney Joseph B. Vas (23%).