By JOHN T. WARD
[See update on DuPont concession below.]
Republican political newcomer Mike Whelan claimed victory, again, after a recount of votes in this month’s Red Bank council election Friday.
The new tally, ordered last week by a Superior Court judge at the request of incumbent Democratic Councilman Mike DuPont, showed that Whelan beat DuPont by three votes — one more than his apparent margin of victory going into the recount.
“I’m happy this process has worked out,” Whelan told redbankgreen, minutes after Monmouth County Clerk Christine Giordano Hanlon declared him the winner. “Now, it’s time to get to work.”
DuPont, who was not present for the recount, held at the county Board of Elections office in Freehold Township, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Raj Goomer, an attorney for the Democrats, said he was satisfied with the integrity of the recount, but left open the possibility of contesting the result in court, a decision that would depend on whether any evidence of voter disenfranchisement or errors comes to light.
“There are so many things that can go wrong,” such as mail-in ballots not being kept in the proper chain-of-custody, he said. “We’ll look at it and see if there’s some basis to contest the result. We’re not going to do it just to do it.”
Held in a hushed, windowless conference room with an assistant state Attorney General, a handful of party officials and four reporters looking on, the recount involved comparing “tapes,” or printouts obtained the night of the election and again Friday morning from each of the 18 voting machines used in Red Bank’s nine districts. It also included recounts of mail-in ballots and 18 provisional ballots.
The tapes from November 3 and Friday morning showed the same result, said elections board Chairwoman Leah Falk: Whelan up by 43.
The recount of the mail-ins had to be conducted twice, however, when a tally showed 166 mail-ins, instead of 165, as previously recorded. The subsequent count put the number back at 165.
In the end, all four candidates in the race for two council seats ended up with more votes than in the election night and subsequent counts. Whelan picked up four, ending at 971, and DuPont gained three, for a total of 968.
Whelan running mate Mark Taylor led all four candidates with 1,038 votes, picking up five in the recount, and DuPont running mate Mike Ballard was fourth, with 937, a gain of three. Ballard conceded defeat on election night.
“We’re done,” Hanlon said of her agency’s involvement, noting that the Friday result would be certified. “The next thing would be an election contest,” should the Democrats seek and obtain an order for one in Superior Court, she said.
If it stands, the Republicans will have control of the council, four votes to two, on the council, their first majority since 1989. Mayor Pasquale Menna, a Democrat, is permitted to vote only in the event of a tie vote.[UPDATE, 6:20 p.m.: DuPont tells redbankgreen that “although there were some inconsistencies” and questions about ballots that were disallowed, “I think it is incumbent on me to concede and wish the new people good luck.”]