Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Thomas McCloskey denied a request to recount votes cast in Perth Amboy’s city council race but approved a recheck of ballots submitted in the city’s School Board races.
Lisette Lebron, who finished fourth in the race for three School Board seats, filed for her recount after running just 13 votes behind Marisol Gonzalez, 4,126-4,113.
The council race was less close. There, Vanessa Bermudez finished 199 votes behind BJ Torres, the last of four candidates to advance to a Dec. 15 Council runoff election. Torres leads Bermudez 4,117-3,918
In his 30-page opinion — that sort of length is unusual for a recount order — McCloskey said neither Lebron nor Bermudez offered any evidence of any specific counting errors that might require a recount, instead only offering broad concerns about the process for counting vote-by-mail ballots.
That’s the lesser of two prongs required for a recount, the other being the closeness of the election.
“The question then turns on whether the election results in each instance were ‘drastically close’ so as to independently warrant a recount; and, if so, in the instance of Petitioner Bermudez, whether injunctive relief should be imposed to enjoin the obligatory run-off elections scheduled for December 15, 2020,” the judge wrote.
Middlesex County Clerk Elaine Flynn took no position on either recount application, though she objected to Bermudez’s call for an injunction that would halt the city’s council runoff election.
Those ballots have already been printed. They were mailed last Wednesday. That cost for printing and mailing those ballots totaled a little more than $37,000.
The only irregularity Bermudez pointed to were 11 unopened provisional ballots found after election results were certified in Middlesex County. Those ballots were counted and added to the total. They did not change the results of the race, though they cased some small shifts in the margins.
But while the judge deemed Lebron’s 13-vote margin close enough to warrant a recount, the same wasn’t true for Bermudez’s 199-vote margin.
“In the Court’s view, this margin is hardly significant and certainly not ‘drastically close’ as would alone warrant a recount,” the judge wrote.
While the latter margin accounts for less than 1% of all votes cast in the council race, they represent a roughly 2.5% margin between Bermudez and Torres, the fourth-place council finisher.
McCloskey further ruled the court had no authority to delay Perth Amboy’s Dec. 15 runoff election, adding that enjoining that election would undermine the integrity of the electoral process.