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The U.S. Postal Service is a critical partner as New Jersey steps up vote-by-mail elections. Photo by Rusty Clark.

Post Office took weeks to deliver two ballots that could decide Paterson election

Carlos Gonzalez’s vote doesn’t count because postal workers took 3 weeks to make a 2.8 mile trip

By David Wildstein, June 16 2020 2:29 pm

Carlos A. Gonzalez cast his mail-in ballot for the Paterson city council election on Election Day, but his vote didn’t count because the U.S. Postal Service took three weeks to deliver his ballot.

Gonzalez told the New Jersey Globe that he voted for Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, who currently trails incumbent Shahin Khalique by just one vote, 1,727 to 1,726, in the race for the 2nd Ward council seat.

He said his wife, Darlene Gonzalez, also voted for Akhtaruzzaman.

Records show that her vote was also not counted.

Gonzalez said that he mailed his VBM ballot on Election Day, May 12, at the post office in Woodland Park.

His ballot was postmarked by the West Paterson Post Office in Woodland Park on May 12, and it took 21 days for postal workers to complete the 2.8 mile journey to the office of Passaic election officials.

“Why did it take so long to get there?” Gonzalez asked. “Jeeze. It bothers me.”

According to Gonzalez, he mailed his wife’s ballot at the same time.  Also postmarked on May 12, Darlene Gonzalez’s ballot arrived at the Board of Elections on May 20.

Votes cast by 8 PM on Election Day were counted, as long as they arrived at the Board of Elections by close of business on May 14.

Now it’s up to a judge to decide whether to allow the two Gonzalez votes.

If that happens, Akhtaruzzaman would lead by one vote.

The 59-year-old Gonzalez in an unaffiliated voter who participates in most non-partisan municipal elections, records show.

“Without a review of the actual mailpiece, the Postal Service cannot determine how long it took to deliver a mailpiece or whether there were any delivery issues,” said George Flood, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service.  “The U.S. Mail remains a secure, efficient and effective means for citizens and campaigns to participate in the electoral process, and the Postal Service is proud of our role as an important component of the nation’s democratic process. We regret any concern caused.”

Judge Ernest Caposella has ordered a second recount in the race for Paterson’s 2nd Ward city council seat.  The recount is expected on Friday, although that date could change.

There are at least six votes that are still unaccounted for after a recount that produced four different results last week.

In this race, 50 people who cast mail-in votes in the May 12 election had their ballots rejected because the Passaic County Board of Elections didn’t have their signatures in the database.

The 2nd Ward race is one of three council seats facing legal challenges.

State and federal law enforcement are investigating the Paterson election after nearly 900 ballots appear to have been harvested and mailed from three separate mailboxes in the all vote-by-mail election.

This story was updated on June 17 at 8:50 AM to  include comment from Flood.

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