Saying he wants to highlight the perils of all vote-by-mail elections as he checks on the accuracy of the July 7 primary count, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Hirsh Singh has asked for a hand recount of all Republican ballots in Cape May and Atlantic counties.
In hearings Friday before Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez regarding his requests, Singh, 34, said he is asking for recounts in all counties of the state and called the July 7 primary “irregular” because it was the first time a primary was conducted mainly through paper vote-by-mail ballots.
Singh, an engineer from Linwood, said he wanted the recount not only to ensure public trust overall in election results but also to show the government that recounts are easy to get and a reason for avoiding a vote-by-mail election in November.
“We could be headed for disaster,” Singh said.
Clerk of the Atlantic County Board of Elections Sue Sandman said a hand recount of the 18,853 Republican ballots cast countywide would take at least a month and prevent the board from preparing for the November general election.
“We are waiting anxiously to hear what the governor wants to do in November. If he says, ‘Open up in-person voting,’ we are going to have to expand from our consolidated polling sites … train poll workers and try and locate another 50-60 polling sites so people are not waiting in line two to three hours to vote,” Sandman said. “We were hoping to use the month of August to help with the general (election).”
Preliminary counts statewide have Singh about 8,000 votes behind the leader, Rik Mehta, of Morris County, a biotech entrepreneur, pharmacist and attorney.
Mehta’s lawyer, Tim Howes, said Singh has not shown a fact-based reason to order a recount.
“He has to provide more than maybe or speculation, such as specific knowledge of jamming or malfunction of an optical scanner. That is not present here,” Howes argued in the hearing. “There is nothing to indicate he could overcome an 8,000-vote deficit by recounting ballots.”
About 360,000 Republican ballots were counted of an estimated 400,000 cast as of Friday.
Howes said he appreciated Singh’s “altruism” in bringing the action, and “while I agree with him on the merits of an all-paper-ballot election, this is not the forum for that.”
Singh said 27,000 ballots have been thrown out statewide, tens of thousands more remain uncounted and he has received reports of irregularities in how the optical scanners have counted paper ballots.
“Fifteen thousand provisional ballots in Middlesex County have not been reported yet,” Singh said, as well as an unknown number in Hudson, Union and Essex counties. “There is a large amount of unknowns. Anyone who is talking about results at this point in time is extremely incorrect.”
In his home county of Atlantic, Singh had an overwhelming lead. Of 18,853 Republican votes cast, Singh got 13,033 to Mehta’s 1,055. A total of 204 Republican votes were rejected in Atlantic County, according to election officials.
The primary election, ordered postponed from June 2 to July 7 by Gov. Phil Murphy to allow for a mostly vote-by-mail election to avoid spreading COVID-19, has not yet been certified statewide.
The Associated Press called the race for Mehta on July 10, but results have not been certified, and Singh said at the Mendez hearing there are still thousands of votes that haven’t been counted yet in various counties.
The winner will face incumbent U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., in November.
Singh filed the Atlantic County petition Thursday, Atlantic County Board of Elections Chair Lynn Caterson said.
Singh ran in the 2nd Congressional District Republican primary in 2018 and was defeated by a modest margin by Seth Grossman. The seat ultimately went to Democrat Jeff Van Drew, who changed parties to Republican in December after voting against impeaching President Donald Trump in the House of Representatives.
Singh won the endorsement of four of the eight county committees in the district in last year’s congressional race, including Atlantic County’s, and raised almost $100,000 more than the winner, Grossman.
Atlantic County Republicans have canceled their annual convention, and some 2nd District con…
But Grossman, who had better name recognition and a strong grassroots campaign, won the day.
Singh also angered party leaders, including Atlantic County Republican Chairman Keith Davis, who accused him of misleading county party officials about how much personal wealth he had. After pledging to self-fund his campaign and raise as much as $2 million, Singh filed financial papers indicating he only has $50,000 to $100,000 in personal wealth, Davis said.
Singh also ran in the Republican primary for governor in 2017 but failed to get his party’s nod over former Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.