Thousands of new votes have come in from Essex County since Tuesday afternoon that could change the outcome of several key municipal races conducted entirely through vote-by-mail ballots, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
In Montclair, where Sean Spiller led the balloting for mayor by 450 votes, another 1,542 votes have come in since the last ballots were counted.
In the race for two at-large seats on the township council, 347 votes separate the top vote-getter from the candidate in third place. Peter Yacobellis (3,728) and incumbent Bob Russo (3,640) lead Roger Terry (3,381). Russo and Terry ran with Spiller.
As of Tuesday, 8,459 ballots were returned to the Essex County Board of Elections. Of those, 7,757 were counted and 702 were rejected for various technical reasons or were not counted. The new total number of ballots returned is 10,001.
The distribution of votes appears to favor Spiller over his rival, Renee Baskerville.
Spiller won the 1st Ward by 455 votes (60.7%) and 456 new ballots have come in since Tuesday afternoon. He took the 2nd Ward by 351 votes (57.8%), with 492 new ballots arriving, and the 3rd Ward, where he is a councilor, by 166 votes (54.7%).
Baskerville carried the 4th ward, where she is a councilor, by 450 votes (65.3%). The total number of new ballots in 4th is 298.
The new votes could make the council race tighter. Yacobellis led Terry in the 4th Ward by 231 votes, the 2nd Ward by 93, and the 3rd Ward by 53. Terry outpolled Yacobellis in the 1st Ward by 30 votes.
It’s not immediately clear how many ballots throughout Essex County will come in tomorrow – or even Friday or next week. There have been multiple reports of ballots taking a week or more to be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
The Board of Elections is set to meet tomorrow afternoon to conduct a final vote count and certify a winner.
It would then be up to a losing candidate to mount a challenge.
An additional 389 ballots have come in from Nutley, where 105 votes separate John V. Kelly III and Maria Hamlin for the fifth Town Commissioner seat.
By tradition, the top vote-getter becomes the mayor. In that contest, incumbent Joseph Scarpelli leads Mauro Tucci by 19 votes.
A third incumbent, Al Petracco, could still be in the running for mayor. He trails Scarpelli by 48 votes.
Tucci served briefly as mayor following Joanne Cocchiola’s resignation in 2012, but his time in office was short-lived; he ended up in fourth place in the May municipal election after Nutley voters punished him for leapfrogging over others to fill the vacancy. He was replaced by Petracco, who was outpolled four years later by Scarpelli, a former Essex County freeholder.
Nutley voters returned 7,448 ballots as of Tuesday. Of those, 7,134 were counted, and 314 were rejected for technical defects or remain uncounted
Just one vote separates Weldon Montague (577) from Edward Marable (576) in the race for the third at-large council seat, with Dwight Homes (546) just 31 votes out of first place.
Another 209 votes came in from Orange on Tuesday.
Theoretically, Coram J. Rimes, Jr., who is in fifth place with 49 votes, is still in contention.
As of Tuesday, Orange had returned 3,073 votes, of which 2,676 were counted and 397 were rejected or not counted. The Wednesday votes brought the total number to 3,282.
Incumbent 1st Ward Councilwoman Marie Strumolo Burke leads Carmine A. Mattia by 76 votes with an additional 72 votes being returned on Wednesday.
The 1st Ward returned 1,141 ballots as of Tuesday, but just 846 were counted.
Allegations of ballot tampering in Irvington halted the counting of ballots on Tuesday night and 300 new ballots received on Wednesday could alter several township council races.
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.
Prior to the election officials stopping the count, incumbent Orlander G. Vick, a Vauss ally, led Micano Evra by 227 votes, 284 to 57, in the race for the North Ward seat. An additional 107 votes came in on Tuesday.
In the West Ward, were barely any votes had been counted on Tuesday, an additional 55 votes arrived today. That brings the total to 1,080.
Incumbent Vern Cox faces Destin Nicolas.
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.
Challenger Sean Evans leads Councilman Paul Inman by 52 votes, 312 to 260, for the East Ward council seat. An additional 54 votes came in on Wednesday. Vauss was backing Evans.