More than a week after the election, Essex County officials continue to count “buckets” of votes coming in from post offices that were flooded or without power after Hurricane Sandy devastated the region, County Clerk Chris Durkin said Wednesday.
In addition to mail-in votes, emailed, faxed and provisional ballots remain to be counted. Final results will not be available until the afternoon of Monday, Nov. 19, the deadline set for mail-in votes by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
Only four candidates are holding their breath until Monday, the two Democrats and two incumbent Republicans vying for two open seats on the Caldwell Council.
“Caldwell is the only race in the county that is waiting to be called,” Durkin said Wednesday.
With the machine votes and absentee ballots counted, the race shows Democrat Edward Durkin in the lead with 1,616 votes followed by Republican incumbent Richard Hauser with 1,612 votes.
Republican incumbent Peter Murray has 1,597 machine and absentee votes combined and Democrat Susan Vezza has 1,548.
None of the candidates are celebrating or conceding, saying the race is too close to call.
“This was the most trying and challenging election in the history of America,” Durkin said, “and that’s an understatement.”
Guadagno changed the laws seven times, Durkin said, including moving deadlines and allowing voting by e-mail and fax.
More than 3,000 residents came through the Hall of Records in Newark the weekend before the pending hurricane waiting on average three hours to request mail-in ballots. Durkin said normally his office would see about 100 voters come through. Ballots postmarked by the Nov. 5 deadline were still coming in Wednesday, almost 10 days later.
An additional 1,750 email ballots and 350 fax ballots were sent out to voters displaced by the hurricane.
If the storm had hit the state even a day later than Oct. 29, Durkin said, the election could easily have missed the Nov. 6 mark.
The county’s deadline to verify election results is Wednesday, Nov. 21.