Lawsuit filed by Cabán campaign illustrates distrust toward Board of Elections in Queens DA recount

A copy of the lawsuit filed by Democratic primary candidate Tiffany Cabán in the Queens district attorney primary.
Photo: Robert Pozarycki/QNS

Court documents filed by lawyers representing Queens district attorney candidate Tiffany Cabán indicate that the public defender has confidence that she will rise above her opponent if only 114 affidavit ballots are validated independent of the Board of Elections and counted.

Cabán’s campaign has charged that the Queens County Democratic Party has the power to sway judges and Board of Elections official to suppress the vote in ways that only work in their favor, which the complaint filed by her campaign reflects.

“As reflected in the votes cast by the Voting Machines and on Paper Ballots in the Primary Election were exceedingly close, with only a marginal number of votes separating [Cabán] and Respondents-Candidates,” the complaint reads. “It is possible that Respondent Board of Elections, in canvassing the Paper Ballots, may be unable to determine the validity of individual ballots, or may err in determining for which candidate the individual ballots were cast.”

Attorneys for Cabán, Renee Paradis and Jerry Goldfeder, worked throughout the day on July 3 to count paper absentee ballots and verify affidavits as the race became increasingly tight between her and Borough President Melinda Katz.

Katz ended primary night 1,100 votes behind Cabán, but at the end of the count on Wednesday, she had pulled ahead by 20 votes — enough for the borough president to declare victory.

“Our campaign, and all of Queens, is up against a party machine that has ruled local politics and suppressed democracy for decades. Our communities are calling for a criminal justice system that ends mass incarceration, uplifts our black and brown communities, and decriminalizes poverty — rather than protecting the powerful,” Cabán said on July 4. “We are still fighting to make sure every valid ballot is counted. We are confident that if that happens, we will be victorious.”

Six ballots that were deemed fit on July 5 gave Cabán five additional votes, chiseling the difference down to 16 with Katz still in the lead.

“Petitioner believes that, after a complete canvass of the Paper Ballots, it should be determined that Petitioner won the nomination of the Democratic Party in the Primary Election,” the complaint continued.

The loaded June 25 primary had seven candidates total splitting the vote across the borough, including Councilman Rory Lancman, Greg Lasak, Mina Malik, Jose Nieves and Betty Lugo.

Lancman dropped out of the race the Friday before the primary and threw his support behind Katz, leading some to speculate there had been a political deal behind the decision to drop out of the race just days before an election and after raising $1.3 million.

Meanwhile, state Senator Joseph Addabbo has introduced a bill to inform voters when a candidate has dropped out of a race by amending the election law to require voting machines to reject ballots cast in favor of a candidate that has officially withdrawn from a particular race.

“When Councilman Lancman dropped out of the Queens district attorney race just four days before the election, I believe a lot of voters weren’t aware of the change and still voted for him on Election Day, when they may have wanted to vote for someone else if they knew he was no longer an active candidate,” Addabbo added. “With my bill, voters would get the opportunity to fill out a new ballot and ensure their vote is cast for an active candidate, or they can leave their vote the way it was if they please. My bill is aimed at giving voters the most up-to-date information on the candidates to ensure that their vote goes to someone who is still on the ballot.”

The court proceedings to determine the validity of the affidavit ballots is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. on July 9 at the Queens Supreme Courthouse in Jamaica.