After election officials counted the provisional ballots cast in last week’s 2nd Ward election on Tuesday morning, both incumbent Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman and challenger Shahin Khalique added 35 and 14 votes to their respective election night tallies.
Khalique held a diminished lead over Akhtaruzzaman with 1,400 votes inclusive of mail-in and provisional ballots.
Akhtaruzzaman’s 35 provisional votes pushed his count to 1,381. On election night, Khalique had a 40 vote lead over Akhtaruzzaman. Now that has narrowed to 19.
“It’s easier to climb a mountain this high as opposed to this,” said Ted Kyles, the incumbent’s attorney, signaling with his hand in upper and lower heights.
The attorney has submitted a letter to election officials to hold off on certifying the results of the May 10th, 2016 election until after the investigation by the Passaic County superintendent of elections Sherine El-Abd is completed.
El-Abd office opened an investigation into the proliferation of mail-in ballots in the 2nd Ward.
Akhtaruzzaman said there are 65 mail-in ballots that were cast in the 2nd Ward election by voters who did not live in the ward. His campaign provided information to El-Abd’s office on the Friday before the election day on the 65 mail-in ballots.
“There’s a lot more we don’t know yet,” he said at the Passaic County Administration Building on Grand Street. More than three dozen supporter of Khalique and Akhtaruzzaman gathered at the Freeholders’ meeting room to observe the provisional ballot counting.
“We’ll celebrate the victory today,” said Khalique’s brother Jwel Khalique after the count. He said his brother was with his family during Tuesday morning’s provisional ballot count.
The brother when asked about potential legal action by Akhtaruzzaman said the due process will take its course. He said he expects his brother to be certified as the winner of the 2nd Ward election.
The incumbent’s attorney intends to file in court to block the certification of a winner in the 2nd Ward election.
Out of 104 provisional ballots cast in the 2nd Ward on election day 76 were deemed valid. Aslon Goow received 13 provisional votes raising his count to 739 while Eddie Gonzalez received 14 upping his tally to 486.
Chairman of the board John Currie found several instance where voters from outside of the ward cast ballots in the 2nd Ward. In one instance a voter from 5th Ward district 8 voted in 2nd Ward district 2.
“Obviously this voter is not eligible to vote in the 2nd Ward,” said Currie. In one instance a poll worker “mistakenly” detached the ballot from the envelope. In another instance, a voter cast ballots twice in the 1st and 2nd Wards.
Six voters cast ballots in-person and also voted at the polling places.
In all the board nullified 28 provisional ballots leaving it with 76 valid ballots.
The 2nd Ward election battle will now likely move to the courts as both sides question each the validity of each other’s mail-in votes. Khalique came in fourth place at the polling site tallies, but catapulted himself to victory with 1,009 mail-in votes.
Akhtaruzzaman secured 523 mail-in votes, according to election results.