Update: Alex Mendez current leads Bill McKoy by 9 votes, 3,769 to 3,760. In Ward 2, Shahin Khalique leads Mohammed Akhtraruzzman by 98 votes, 2,757 to 2,659.
Alex Mendez appears to have taken an exceedingly narrow lead over incumbent 3rd Ward Councilman Bill McKoy in a race a judge ordered rerun because of voter fraud charges against the challenger.
The New Jersey Globe has learned Mendez appears to lead by between seven and nine votes after Passaic County tallied provisional ballots Thursday, but it’s not clear whether that count includes machine votes cast by voters with disabilities.
McKoy had gone into Thursday with a 120-vote lead, 3,650 to 3,530.
There are likely few such votes, but with the margin as thin as it is, they could still give the incumbent a win.
The possibility didn’t stop Mendez and his supporters from declaring victory.
“Thanks to my God & to all the residents of the 3rd Ward who came out to vote stronger than ever for the second time and to our great loyal team,” Mendez said in a Facebook post made shortly after midnight Friday. “God knows my desire is to work and help our city of Paterson that is going through a very difficult time.”
Passaic County Clerk Danielle Ireland-Imhof is expected to post complete results later this morning that’ll provide more clarity to the race. Election results must be certified by Friday, and while an executive order Gov. Phil Murphy issued this morning extended that deadline for Ocean and Salem Counties, Passaic election officials didn’t get similar leeway.
McKoy isn’t conceding yet, saying he’d wait to for a certified count before making announcements of any kind.
“We remain positive, energetic and confident that we will maintain our lead. We’re just waiting for the election count to be called and certified before we make any announcements,” he said on Facebook Friday morning. “We’re not taking anything for granted. It’s in God’s hands.”
With the margin as thin as it is, the race could come to a recount. It’s not clear how many votes were cast in the 3rd Ward, but even with the old totals, a nine-vote lead would give Mendez a margin of about one-tenth of a point.
Shahin Khalique appears to have maintained his lead over Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman in a rerun of the city’s 2nd Ward race. He’s up roughly 90 votes in a race that ended in a tie when it was first run in May.
Passaic County Superior Court Judge Ernest Caposela issued an injunction blocking Mendez from taking his seat in early July, citing a bevy of irregularities that brought state election fraud charges against Mendez, Councilman Michael Jackson, Shelim Khalique — the brother of Shahin Khalique — and some others.
Prosecutors alleged Mendez approached one of more 3rd Ward voters, collected their mail-in ballots and delivered them to the Passaic County Board of Elections without legally required bearer information.