Independent Philip has extended his lead to 1558 votes over Labor's Loretta Baker in the primary vote count in the Maitland mayoral election.
About 9000 iVotes were added to the tally about 5pm on Wednesday blowing out Cr Penfold's lead from 386 votes earlier in the day.
Cr Penfold had 17,633 votes or 34.70 per cent of the formal vote compared with Cr Baker's 16,075 or 31.63 per cent.
The NSW Electoral Commission says a decision in the mayoral election will not be known until the week of Christmas.
The commission confirmed the distribution of preferences will be required to elect candidates in the mayoral and councillor polls and will start on Monday, December 20.
Preference are expected to favour Cr Baker with four of the other candidates directing their preferences to her ahead of Cr Penfold.
They account for approximately 15,000 votes at this stage.
Cr Baker said the potentially-decisive preferences were less predictable given COVID-19 rules had limited election materials,
"I think it is 50/50 at the moment," she said.
Cr Penfold expects to win the primary vote, however he has also rated himself only a 50/50 chance of being elected mayor.
The council seems likely to include at least three Penfold independents, with four each from Labor and the Liberals. A final seat in Central Ward is still a tight race between the Greens and Penfold's ticket.
2021 MAYORAL VOTE
(As at 5.03pm on Wednesday, December 8)
- BROWN John (GRN) 3373 (6.64%)
- MITCHELL Ben (LIB) 7372 (14.51%)
- BAKER Loretta (ALP) 16,075 (31.63%)
- PENFOLD Philip (IND) 17,633 (34.70%)
- SAFFARI Shahriar (Sean) (IND) 1215 (2.39%)
- COOPER Michael (IND) 3186 (6.27%)
- BURKE Brian IND 1967 (3.87%)
Total Formal Votes Counted 50,821
Total Informal/Other Votes 1731
Progressive Total Votes 52,552
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