UPDATE: Cabán concedes Queens DA primary race to Katz after latest ballot review

Photo: Mark Hallum/QNS

UPDATE: Hours after a re-review of objected ballots in the Democratic primary for Queens district attorney, public defender Tiffany Cabán conceded the race to the certified winner of the contest, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, at a party in Astoria on Tuesday night. The announcement brought an end to a six-week saga in which Cabán appeared heading to victory after emerging from the June 25 primary with a 1,100-vote edge. But Katz took a narrow lead just a week later following a count of paper ballots, which triggered an automatic and lengthy recount. A full report on the concession is forthcoming; stay tuned.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s slim victory in the Democratic primary for Queens district attorney narrowed marginally on Tuesday — but time, ballots and patience are all running low in the never-ending saga.

A re-review of objected ballots by a Brooklyn judge at the Board of Elections office in Forest Hills on Aug. 6 helped public defender Tiffany Cabán pick up 10 votes. The judge also maintained the BOE’s rulings on seven votes for Katz, meaning the initial invalidations for distinguishing marks on the ballot were sustained while three Cabán votes were validated.

As of 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Katz holds a 55-vote lead over Cabán despite Katz being certified as a Democratic nominee by the BOE last week following a long manual recount process.

The process will resume tomorrow, Wednesday, with another hearing — but the Katz campaign says Cabán doesn’t have enough potential votes to overcome the deficit, and it’s finally time to move on.

“Today, the judge patiently spent almost six hours scrutinizing each of the ballots objected to during the recount, as well as the disqualified affidavit ballots. The margin has barely changed, and the results are the same for a third time. Overwhelmingly, he rejected the Cabán team’s efforts and upheld the judgments of the Board of Elections, which last week certified Melinda Katz as the winner of the primary,” Katz campaign adviser Matthew Rey said. “There is nothing left to count, and there is absolutely no math that would overturn Melinda’s lead. It is now time to allow Queens to move on in order to begin working on crucial reforms to the district attorney’s office.”

A highlight from the afternoon was perhaps a mark on a ballot that, at first, was believed to be from a highlighter. It was determined on Tuesday to in fact be a mustard stain, and it was enough for Judge John Ingram to overturn the earlier invalidation of the disputed ballot.

After heated discussions at a July hearing at Queens Supreme Court in Jamaica, both Ingram, attorneys for Katz, and New York City Corporation Counsel objected to the Cabán campaign’s complaint of erroneously invalidating ballots on account of the fact they had not filed any sort of bill of particulars.

Defining marks that led to BOE officials objecting to ballots during the manual recount process included those made either on purpose or mistake by the voter that may have obscured their intention.

Attorney’s and the judge deliberated on each ballot discussing “L” shaped marks in the field of other candidates they believed to be intentional. Another “stray mark” was disputed after being described as a squiggle. This vote was deemed invalid.

Goldfeder argued that poll workers did not do their duty in making sure over 6,000 affidavits were properly filled out before submission, claiming they had in effect acted improperly or illegally. Ingram rebutted that it is a guideline to make sure all fields are properly filled out, but that it is not illegal.

“If in fact you’re alleging that it was affirmative administerial error and not just a mistake,” Ingram said. “They can tell their poll worker what to do, but if it is not required by law. It’s a nice thing, but if it’s not the law, then that’s going to be my ruling.”

About 1,600 people put the wrong information on affidavits in the June 25 primary.

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