Home>Articles>Judge orders hand recount of Trenton council race decided by one vote

Superior Court Judge William Anklowitz has ordered a hand recount in Trenton's North Ward. (Photo: Joey Fox for the New Jersey Globe).

Judge orders hand recount of Trenton council race decided by one vote

Jennifer Williams seated on January 1 after defeating Algernon Ward 427-426

By Joey Fox, January 11 2023 4:51 pm

Trenton City Councilwoman Jennifer Williams has been in office for nearly two weeks, but a Superior Court judge today ordered a hand recount of the election that put her there, potentially causing further turmoil in an already-chaotic election cycle for New Jersey’s capital city. The recount is likely to be conducted this Saturday.

Williams won the runoff for Trenton’s North Ward, held on December 13 after a series of snafus, with 427 votes to her opponent Algernon Ward’s 426. The election was not certified until December 30, so although Ward immediately filed for a recount, the proceedings could not begin before Williams took office on January 1.

Superior Court Judge William Anklowitz ruled today in favor of a recount, a decision which was not opposed by either Williams or Deputy Attorney General Levi Klinger-Christiansen, who was present on behalf of the county Superintendent of Elections and Board of Elections.

Klinger-Christiansen did, however, argue that the recount should be done by machine rather than by hand, since Board of Elections workers are already overburdened with a separate January 24 council runoff. But Anklowitz rejected this line of argument, saying that only a hand recount could provide the certainty needed in such a close race.

“For the Board to do a machine recount, and then be attacked for not having sufficient integrity where parties are going to come back to challenge the election – well, that wouldn’t really solve very much,” Anklowitz said.

Only four of the city’s seven council seats are currently occupied, while the other three – all at-large seats – will be decided by the January 24 runoff. Trenton City Clerk Brandon Garcia initially certified the three top finishers in the November at-large race as the winners without a runoff, but he made a critical error in calculating the majority threshold; by the time a judge ordered that a runoff be held after all, it was too late to conduct it before the city government reorganized at the beginning of 2023.

All four of the current sitting council members, then, are necessary to achieve a council quorum and allow the city government to function. Until the at-large winners are seated, any changes in the North Ward race could have repercussions for that fragile quorum.

Williams and Ward have each run for office before: Williams as the Republican nominee for State Assembly in 2019, Ward for the same North Ward council seat in 2014 and 2018. Ward lost both of his races to former Councilwoman Marge Caldwell-Wilson, who retired this year and backed Williams to succeed her.

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