A special election for Paterson’s 2nd Ward council seat would be set no earlier than August 15 and no later than August 20, according to an opinion issued by city clerk Sonia Gordon today.
After a recount last week, Councilman Shahin Khalique and challenger Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman are tied at 1,730 votes each.
Looming large in the tied election are voter fraud charges filed by the state Attorney General today against Councilman Michael Jackson, Councilman-elect Alex Mendez, and Shelem Khalique, the incumbent’s brother.
The special election would not necessarily create a Khalique vs. Akhtaruzzaman rematch. Gordon says that candidates wishing to compete in the special election would need to file nominating petitions by July 16.
A legal battle over individual ballots accepted or rejected by the Passaic County Board of Elections is till ongoing, and Superior Court Judge Ernest Caposella could still change the results of the 2nd Ward election that Gordon certified today.
According to the city clerk, Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order requiring primarily vote-by-mail elections for May 12 and the July 7 primary would not apply to an August special election. That contest would be in-person, unless Murphy issued another order, Gordon said.
Gordon’s view is that a tie would create a vacancy on the council that could be filled temporarily by appointment, if the remaining members of the governing body decide t o go that route. An appointed councilmember would serve until the results of a new election are certified.
An appointment to the council would require five votes. In the event of a 4-4 tie, Gordon says Mayor Andre Sayegh could break the logjam.