The counting of mail-in ballots in two Irvington ward council races has been suspended and election officials are preparing to notify law enforcement to investigate possible voter fraud, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
Several hundred ballots in the North and West wards contained write-in candidates for the Board of Education, most of them with similar handwriting, sources told the Globe.
The alleged victims of the suspect ballots are candidates allied with popular Irvington Mayor, Tony Vauss.
Before ballots stopped being counted, North Ward Councilman Orlander Vick led Micano Evra by a 76%-15% margin, with 9% for Eric Dixon.
Hardly any ballots have been counted in the West Ward, where Councilman Vern Cox faces challenger Destin Nicolas.
Pasteur Ralph Cadet, an auxiliary policeman in Irvington, posted a message on his Facebook page late last month urging voters to call Evra and Nicolas and give them their ballots.
Reached on Tuesday evening, Cadet confirmed the social media post, but said he had no knowledge of any efforts to write-in school board candidates.
“I did it so they can help them figure out the ballots, Cadet told the Globe. He said he did not know if anyone had taken him up on his suggestion.
Evra and Nicolas denied any knowledge of write-in ballots. Both told the Globe that they did not personally handle any ballots and were not connected to the school board race.
“I don’t know what Cadet said,” Evra maintained. “They said it in a radio commercial, to write-in.”
In the East Ward, Sean C. Evans, who was backed by Vauss, appears to have ousted incumbent Paul Inman by 52 votes, 312 to 260.
Essex will resume counting ballots on Friday, after any ballots postmarked by 8 PM today are received.
Election officials could potentially invalidate all ballots that include potentially fraudulent write-in votes.