Queens DA recount update: Cabán and Katz teams want every ballot counted, but first ballot objection surfaces

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Photo: Mark Hallum/QNS

After nearly a week of just sorting over 91,000 ballots, the recount phase has finally begun in Democratic primary for Queens district attorney.

Monday morning saw close to 60 people at the BOE facility in Middle Village flipping through ballots and watchers tallying for either Borough President Melinda Katz or Tiffany Cabán. Both campaigns told the media on Sunday and Monday that they wanted every vote counted; Katz’s team said as much during a Sunday conference call with reporters, and Cabán’s attorney echoed those sentiments at a July 15 press conference outside the BOE facility.

But Katz’s campaign threw the first punch with attorney Frank Bolz objecting to one ballot that had a distinguishing mark. The ballot, a vote for Cabán, was deemed void by BOE staff and placed in an “objected” folder.

Katz held a 16-vote lead over Cabán as the recount got underway.

During the Monday morning press conference, Cabán’s lead attorney, Jerry Goldfeder, echoed the same sentiment of not only the Katz campaign, but the Queens County Democratic Party: make every vote count.

“The Board of Elections people have been working diligently and I believe they’ll render decisions that are fair. We’ll look at intent of the voter and, if the intent of the voter is clear, they will be counted,” Goldfeder said Monday morning. “The only voters that shall not be counted by the board’s rules are if there are stray marks on the ballot.”

This means that any voters who may have left “smiley faces” or other marks that do not indicate a clear choice, according to Goldfeder, will not be valid.

State Senator Jessica Ramos expressed confidence that her own organizational efforts to help elect Cabán would not be in vain and that the final count would yield victory for the candidate that she not only supported, but her Jackson Heights district voted for heavily, according to maps.

“For me, making sure that Tiffany Cabán is the next district attorney is about doing everything that we can in Queens to ensure that every single neighbor is protected,” Ramos said. “It was a campaign that we worked very hard to grow grassroots support for, it was a campaign that came from the people not from the machine. Because of that, I do believe that we will be able to see Tiffany as the victor from this ordeal.”

Election reform as well as campaign finance reform have been debated for years in Albany, but Ramos said the new Democratic majority in the state Senate is now beginning to make strides. Ramos may have been referring to a bill that’s already been passed, among other reforms, that removes barriers to affidavit ballots being counted as over 2,000 were deemed invalid in the Democratic primary for DA.

Activists were pushing for Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign the bill prior to the recount being finalized, which Congressman Gregory Meeks charged as an effort to change the rules in the middle of the game.

“You can’t go [to] 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,” Meeks said at a July 9 press conference.

“I’m here because democracy is being threatened. It’s not being threatened by ‘Trumpian tactics,’ it’s not being threatened by obscure things, it’s being threatened by good people not doing the right thing,” state Senator James Sanders said, firing back at verbiage used against the Cabán campaign by Meeks. “They’re going to let obvious signs that people wanted to vote in a certain way – but because they didn’t hit the right amount of pixels – we’re going to say therefore you can’t vote. Come on, folks; justice delayed is justice denied.”

Also at the press conference was VOCAL-NY’s Carl Stubbs, state Senator Michael Gianaris and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.

According to a spokesman from the Katz campaign during a Sunday conference call with reporters, 99.6 percent of ballots were counted on primary day by the scanning machines. That means about 86,541 were successfully read by machines and 3,500 affidavits were later accounted for.

At the end of the June 25 primary, Cabán lead the seven candidate field with an 1,100-vote lead over Katz, who refused to concede and insisted on waiting for thousands of paper ballots to be counted. After the absentee ballots were fully accounted for, Katz rose ahead by 20 votes; her lead narrowed to 16 two days later after Cabán picked up four votes from reinstated affidavit ballots.

Although the margin of less than a percentage point automatically triggered a recount, whoever rises above at the end of the manual count will be the winner despite the margin.

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