Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Invalid Mail-In Ballots Found in Paterson Vote

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Invalid Mail-In Ballots Found in Paterson Vote

Article excerpt

PATERSON -- In the controversial 2nd Ward council election, where a challenger holds a razor-thin edge over the incumbent, an unspecified number of vote-by-mail ballots have been found to be invalid, a key Passaic County elections official said on Tuesday.

Investigators determined that some of the people who submitted mail-in ballots were not properly registered in the 2nd Ward, said Sherine El-Abd, the county's superintendent of elections.

"I can't say how many, because the investigation is still ongoing," she said. "We have more work to do. We are being very thorough."

Challenger Shahin Khalique topped Councilman Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman by a narrow 19-vote margin, 1,400 to 1,381, unofficial numbers show. In the 2nd Ward race, which had more mail-in ballots than the other ward contests combined, Khalique received 1,009 votes from mail-in ballots; Akhtaruzzaman picked up 523.

Akhtaruzzaman already is petitioning in state court for a recount and is talking about filing a lawsuit challenging Khalique's vote- by-mail support.

Aslon Goow, a former 2nd Ward councilman who finished third in the race, said he wasn't surprised by El-Abd's findings. The rivals in the bitter contest began leveling allegations of fraud against Khalique's campaign since weeks before the election. Now Khalique's supporters are accusing Akhtaruzzaman's team of committing its own offenses.

"These aren't baseball cards we're talking about, these are official documents and it needs to be looked at very seriously," Goow said. "At least she's doing an investigation. I'm glad about that. But at the end of the day, where does this all leave us?"

The answer is not entirely clear. El-Abd said there's no way to know for sure whom the people who submitted the invalid mail-in ballots voted for. "I can't ask them," El-Abd said. "I don't have that authority. Maybe a judge can, but I can't. …

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