PATERSON, NJ - There were no Election Day celebrations for the 18 candidates that competed for seats on the Paterson City Council, and there won’t be until at least May 19, according to City Clerk Sonia Gordon who announced that a ballot count will not be completed until 8:00 p.m. one week after “polls” closed.

Social distancing measures caused Governor Murphy to declare that all elections scheduled for May 12 would be vote by mail only, a decision that led to some concern in Paterson where a pattern of shenanigans has emerged in past campaigns.

In 2014, former councilman Rigo Rodriguez and his wife were entered into a pre-trial intervention program after facing charges of election fraud, mail-in ballot fraud, conspiracy and witness tampering, according to reports. Rodriguez and his wife, who managed his 2010 election campaign, reportedly created a plan to take possession of absentee ballots and assist voters with filling them out or fill them out fraudulently.

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During a 2016 special election, authorities investigated fraud, particularly with mail-in ballots, after then-Councilman Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman lost his seat to incumbent Shahin Khalique and sued, alleging voter fraud. 

While voters were supposed to receive ballots by May 1 social media has been flooded with posts by concerned residents who claimed not getting theirs, or, in some instances, finding multiple ballots in their mailbox. 

In addition to courting their votes, several candidates, including Justin Rucker, Frank Filippelli and William “Bill” McKoy, took to sharing information on the proper procedures to vote by mail.

McKoy, the incumbent Third Ward councilman, recently wrote, “Avoid being coerced by others or being paid for your vote. There are penalties for those who are caught. Complete YOUR OWN BALLOT.” 

Completed ballots were to be postmarked by May 12 in order to be counted.

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