Katz certified as official winner of Queens DA primary, Cabán seeks court action to count more ballots

Tiffany Cabán (left) and Melinda Katz
Photos: Mark Hallum/QNS

More than a month after the polls closed, the Board of Elections finally declared a winner on Monday in the roller-coaster, nail-biter Democratic primary for Queens district attorney.

Borough President Melinda Katz was certified as the victor in the June 25 primary over her closest rival, public defender Tiffany Cabán, by just 60 votes. Cabán’s team is now heading to court seeking to have counted more than 100 ballots which the Board of Elections had disqualified for various discrepancies.

Winning in court seems to be the only path of victory left for the Cabán campaign — a stunning reversal of fortune from the night of June 25, when she celebrated an apparent win, having emerged from the primary with an 1,100-vote lead. Katz, however, refused to concede, insisting that the Board of Elections count the thousands of absentee and approved affidavit ballots cast in the rates.

After that count took place on July 3, to the surprise of many, Katz wound up with a razor-thin 20-vote lead over Cabán. That triggered an automatic recount begun the following week and ended on July 25, with the Board of Elections re-examining all 91,000 votes cast in the race. As it turned out, Katz’s lead grew to a final margin of 60 after all the votes had been recounted.

But the Cabán campaign has remained optimistic in the court siding in their favor, claiming the BOE’s decision gives them the opportunity to pursue the vindication of over 100 affidavit and objected ballots in court on July 31.

Michael Ryan, the executive director of the BOE, defended the determinations of the board, claiming they will also be in court with the Cabán campaign only to clarify matters, not to making any arguments for their process.

“Essentially this litigation is really in some respects a one-sided affair, in that the party that has a claim will make it. And the court will make a determination based on the law. We will simply be there represented by the law department to say what we did, not to advocate a position,” Ryan said. “So it’s not really an adversarial circumstance the way normal litigation will be.”

At a meeting at the Manhattan office, the board thanked the work of BOE staff from the Queens office who spent 10 days counting 91,000 ballots in the a facility in Middle Village before sending the their certification to Albany.

The Cabán campaign has been attempting to have up to 114 affidavit ballots they believe were erroneously disqualified because of what attorney Jerry Goldfeder has referred to as “hyper-technicalities.”

But the court hearing has been postponed from earlier dates awaiting a certified result from the BOE.

“Today’s certification by the Board of Elections is a formality that will allow our campaign to move forward with its efforts to restore wrongly invalidated ballots in court. Our campaign is fighting to protect Queens voters from being disenfranchised and allow their voices to be heard. Eligible voters’ ballots must not be disqualified due to the BOE’s failure to provide them with adequate assistance and guidance at polling sites,” said campaign spokesperson Monica Klein. “Until then, the outcome of this election remains undetermined. We once again urge the Katz campaign to join our efforts to protect voting rights in Queens as we head to court.”

According to the official results from the BOE, votes for Katz totaled 34,920 while Cabán took 34,860. The numbers also show that 17 ballots were voided.

“This is a great day for the people of Queens, who have waited patiently for the long recount process to conclude. Today, the Board of Elections certified that we have won the campaign for the Democratic primary for Queens District Attorney,” Katz said. “While it is everyone’s right to avail themselves of the judicial process, I urge all participants in this hard-fought election to come together and join me in beginning the hard work of reforming the criminal justice system in Queens.”

Gregory Lasak came in third place with 13,048 votes.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect edits made in the initial draft that, due to technical issues, were not processed when the story went live earlier today. We regret any confusion which may have resulted.

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