In a controversial Paterson City Council race that is part of a federal law enforcement probe, 26% of all votes cast were not counted, according to voting records obtained by the New Jersey Globe.
Unofficial results from the city’s Third Ward show incumbent Bill McKoy trailing former councilman Alex Mendez by 245 votes. Of the 4,556 vote-by-mail ballots cast in that contest, 1,195 were rejected.
Included in that number were close to 900 ballots that appear to have been mailed in bulk from three individual mailboxes, including more than 300 rubber-banded together form a mailbox in neighboring Haledon.
Passaic County Board of Elections Chairman John Currie, who also chairs the state and county Democratic parties, said on election day that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was on-site investigating the Paterson balloting. Currie was on a live-stream broadcast of the count and made his comments to other election officials.
Sources told the Globe that McKoy and council candidate Shahin Khalique are likely to seek recounts after county clerk Danielle Ireland-Imhof certifies the results of the May 12 all-VBM elections.
Candidates cannot seek a recount until the election is certified, and cannot mount a legal challenge to rejected ballots until after the recount.
In the Second Ward, Councilman Shain Khalique leads Mohammed Akhtraruzzman by 8 votes, 1,729 to 1,721, with 440 vote cast for Frank Filippelli. In the Second Ward, 916 ballots out of 5,603 cast (16%) were rejected by election officials.
Mendez, who ran for mayor in 2018, is a former at-large councilman and political rival of Mayor Andre Sayegh. The conventional wisdom is that Mendez challenged McKoy to set up another run for mayor in 2022.
Paterson hasn’t re-elected a sitting mayor since 2006 and the post has lacked political stability since Bill Pascrell gave up the job after winning a seat in Congress in 1996.
Three other candidates trailed far behind Mendez and McKoy: Sharieff Bugg (296), Robyn Spencer (118), and perennial candidate Chauncey I. Brown III (43).
Eight months after landing in hot water for saying that local developers tried to “Jew us down,” First Ward Councilman Michael Jackson was re-elected by a comfortable 245-vote margin over Nakima Redmon, 844 to 599, with Mosieh Uddin finishing third with 490 votes.
Ruby Cotton, a former acting mayor, won a landslide 67% victory for re-election to her Fourth Ward council seat. She defeated Eddy Olivares, 979 to 312, with 155 votes for Justin Rucker.
In the Fifth Ward, Luis Velez was re-elected with 60% of the vote over Ramon Joaquin, 964 to 559, with 80 votes for Ricardo “Rick Shaw” Cuebas.
Velez’s 2019 arrest during a city council meeting for allegedly violating a domestic dispute restraining order with his wife, apparently did no affect his electoral prowess.
Sixth Ward Councilman Al Abdelaziz was re-elected without opposition.