While the manual recount for the District Attorney’s race got underway over in Middle Village on Tuesday morning, Queens County Democratic Party Chair Gregory W. Meeks called a press conference in front of the Forest Hills Board of Elections office.
Speaking before a crowd of media and supporters, Meeks pushed back against misinformation that votes for public defender Tiffany Cabán in the district attorney election are being discarded.
“Throughout last week, we have seen such misinformation and lies that threaten the public trust in this process,” said Meeks.
Meeks, who endorsed Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s bid for DA, upbraided unnamed members of Cabán’s campaign staff and supporters who spread what he deemed conspiracy theories about the election process in the last week after the absentee ballots were counted.
Cabán had declared victory following the June 25 primary after emerging with a 1,100-vote lead, but after the Board of Elections counted absentee and some affidavit ballots last week, Katz came out on top of Cabán by 16 votes.
The speakers including Councilman Rory Lancman and Congressman Thomas Suozzi, among other city and state officials from Queens, who railed against “Trumpian tactics” of those spreading misinformation about the ballot count.
Beyond the airing of grievances, the rally also gave Meeks an opportunity to weigh in on a pressing question for the election: Should the invalidated affidavit ballots be counted? Meeks praised the Board of Elections and framed the significance of counting every vote along racial lines.
“We talk about all the time the great diversity of Queens County. Look at the people behind me and tell me we lack diversity in Queens County,” he said.
Lancman, who dropped his campaign about a week before the election, took the issue a step further, explicitly accusing the Cabán campaign of “disenfranchising African American voters” in southeastern Queens.
“I find that offensive and repugnant,” Lancman told QNS.
While Meeks didn’t name any names, high-profile progressive activists like Shaun King fit the bill of his unidentified targets. After the absentee ballot count was announced King attacked the Queens County Democratic Party as being responsible for invalidating affidavit votes over technical reasons.
BREAKING: I spoke privately to officials who counted affidavit votes in the Queens DA’s race yesterday.
They said that Tiffany Cabán received, far and away, more votes than Melinda Katz, but that over 1,000 actual votes for Cabán were thrown away on various technicalities.
— Shaun King (@shaunking) July 4, 2019
But in reality, the affidavit votes that had missing information do potentially hold the fate of the election should they be counted. Earlier on July 8, a Queens Supreme Court judge ruled that the affidavits will not be considered until after the recount.
Asked if he agreed with the Cabán campaign’s charge for these affidavit votes to be counted, Meeks chastised her election lawyer’s attempt to get only a portion of those affidavit votes validated last week.
“[The affidavits] came up at 114, but what they want to validate was 29 because they cherry-picked the 29 from the area in which they lived in. If the 29 are valid, then the whole 114 should be valid,” said Meeks.
However, Meeks’ conviction over the affidavit votes wavered when he was asked whether Governor Andrew Cuomo should immediately sign into effect the bill the legislature recently passed to count all ballots in which voters “substantially complied” with the law.
“You can’t go until a baseball game and say the day of the game we want to change the rules right now … I don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
Cabán’s campaign released a statement Tuesday urging the opposite.
“Melinda Katz said on election night that every vote should be counted. We hope her campaign will join us in court to make sure that happens – and join our call on Governor Cuomo to quickly sign already-passed legislation that could prevent otherwise valid votes from being thrown out by technicalities,” her spokesperson said.