New data released today by Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello may mean that there will indeed have to be a runoff for three at-large seats on the Trenton City Council, potentially undoing a decision by Trenton City Clerk Brandon Garcia that no runoff was necessary. A court case on the matter is scheduled for this afternoon.
Garcia determined last week that first-place finisher Yazminelly Gonzalez, who got 21.9% of the vote overall in a field of nine candidates, had received enough votes to avoid a runoff. Because Gonzalez had purportedly cleared the threshold of 50% +1 vote of all ballots cast, two other candidates who finished in second and third place, Crystal Feliciano and Jasi Edwards, were also declared the winners.
But the three candidates in fourth through sixth places – Alex Bethea, Taiwanda Terry-Wilson, and Kadja Manuel, all of whom would make it to the runoff if Gonzalez fell below the threshold – filed a lawsuit alleging that Garcia had made inaccurate calculations. And the Dominion voting machine numbers released today by Sollami Covello show they may be right.
The 3,675 votes Gonzalez received would have been enough to avoid a runoff if every single voter had cast votes for three at-large candidates; with 16,749 votes total, that would have meant there had been 5,583 ballots, and 3,675 is well more than 50% of 5,583.
But because a large number of voters only voted for one or two at-large candidates, the true number of ballots cast in the race was 8,037. Gonzalez’s 3,675 votes would then be only 46% of the total, thus forcing a six-way runoff for the three seats.
The runoff for two ward seats where no candidate reached 50% of the vote is scheduled for December 13, a date already delayed by one week (from the initial date of December 6) thanks to a voting machine glitch that slowed the counting of Mercer County’s ballots. If the at-large race goes to a runoff, however, the Mercer County Board of Elections and Superintendent of Elections have said it would have to be held on January 24, 2023.
The reorganization of city government is scheduled for January 1, so it’s not clear what would happen if the runoff happens after that date. Because Trenton recently moved its elections from May to November, its current officeholders have already served six extra months; any further delays could mean overstaying their original terms even further.
The mayor’s race and two other council races have already been decided, with Mayor Reed Gusciora and Councilman Joe Harrison winning re-election and Councilwoman-elect Teska Frisby winning the open West Ward seat.Trenton at-large numbers Sollami Covello