The race for Mayor of Perth Amboy remains too close to call, with incumbent Wilda Diaz, Councilman Helmin Caba and attorney Joseph B. Vas battling for two slots in what will almost certainly be a December 15 runoff election.
Diaz is in first place with 3,713 votes (33.15%), followed by by Caba at 3,292 (29.4%) and Vas at 2,810 (25.7%) after just a little more than 1,000 votes were counted on Sunday.
There are still around 5,000 votes still uncounted, including provisional ballots and rejected ballots.
Two other candidates, City Councilmen Joel Pabon, Sr. (6.5%) and Fernando Irizarry (5.7%) , have clearly been eliminated. Percentages for Pabon and Irizarry have been in the single digits since the first wave of election results were announced on Tuesday.
It’s still not clear what the 50% mark needed to qualify a runoff will be. Ballots postmarked on November 3 or before will still be accepted until close of business on November 10.
The even-closer city council race is most likely also headed to a runoff.
Two candidates who ran with Diaz — Junior Iglesia (3,483) and Bernadette Falcon-Lopez (3,326) narrowly lead Caba’s running mates, Rose Morales (3,314) and B Torres (3,069). Vas’s running mates, Vanessa Bermudez (3,005) and Angel Mota Ramirez (2,702) remain very much in the race.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order the day before the election moving the Perth Amboy non-partisan runoff election to December 15.
The runoff will be conducted primarily through vote-by-mail ballots, with a limited number of in-person polling places open on Election Day. All voters will have the option of voting through VBM ballots or on paper ballots on December 15.
The runoff option was approved by voters in a 2019 referendum.
That number of votes needed to win – half of the total votes cast – will be difficult to calculate until November 10. That’s the last day vote-by-mail ballots postmarked by November 3 will still be accepted by county election officials.
Murphy’s order gives officials extra time to design and mail ballots to 25,097 eligible, active voters in Perth Amboy.
Results of the November 3 general election are not expected to be certified until November 20.
That will be followed by a ballot drawing, and then the printing and mailing of runoff ballots.
That assumes the runoff, if necessary, will produce two clear candidates and not face court challenges that may not commence until after the certification.
Middlesex election officials have the option of redeploying more than 30 secure ballot drop boxes to locations in Perth Amboy to obviate the need for involvement by the U.S. Postal Service in returning ballots.
In an added twist, the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission has told the New Jersey Globe that candidates may not accept campaign contributions from existing donors who have already contributed the maximum amount until after they are certified for a runoff slot.