PATERSON, N.J. – A judge has ruled that a new election will be held in November for a disputed Paterson City Council seat, just weeks after the race’s apparent winner and a sitting councilman were charged with voter fraud. State Superior Court Judge Ernest Caposela issued his ruling Wednesday.
Alex Mendez had won a special election on May 12 to fill the seat, but claims of voter fraud were soon raised. An investigation was then launched after the U.S. Postal Service’s law enforcement arm told the state attorney general’s office about hundreds of mail-in ballots located in a mailbox in Paterson, along with more found in nearby Haledon. Ultimately, the Passaic County Board of Elections decided not to count 800 ballots cast in the race.
Voter fraud charges were brought in June against Mendez, Paterson Council Vice President Michael Jackson and two other men: Shelim Khalique, of Wayne, and Abu Rayzen, of Prospect Park. An attorney for Councilman William McKoy, who had been defeated by Mendez, then successfully sought an injunction that barred Mendez from being sworn into office. All four defendants have maintained their innocence.
President Donald Trump has cited the disputed race as a case study in what could happen in an election conducted mostly by mail. His re-election campaign sued New Jersey on Tuesday in a bid to stop the state’s plans to conduct the November general election mostly by mail.