Photo: Mark Hallum/QNS
The Board of Elections began counting paper ballots on July 3 in the still-undecided Democratic primary for Queens district attorney.

UPDATE on July 5: At 1:11 p.m., the Board of Elections has unsealed six affidavit ballots that were redeemed by lawyers for Cabán. Five of those votes went to Cabán while one went to Katz.

This means that Katz’ lead has shrunk from 20 to 16 votes. The BOE will still be holding a recount, which is automatically triggered if the difference is below a percentage point.

At this point, the recount will be scheduled for Tuesday at a location in Middle Village. All 93,000 ballots cast in the race and considered valid will be recounted by hand.

The still-undecided Queens district attorney’s race took a surprising turn on Wednesday as the Board of Elections counted the paper ballots in the contest.

According to NY1, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz — who entered the day down about 1,100 votes to public defender Tiffany Cabán, the apparent winner of the June 25 Democratic primary for Queens DA — is said to have taken a less than 50-vote lead following the absentee ballot count.

Sources close to the proceedings tell QNS that Katz now has a 20-vote lead in the race, and a hand recount of all ballots — including a recanvass of the paper ballots scanned on Primary Day — would result. Under election law, a recount is automatically launched if the margin is less than a percentage point, and in this contest, the 20-vote margin is well within that range.

As of 8:54 p.m., the Cabán campaign is holding off on verifying additional affidavits until Friday when they continue their efforts to track down voters. The hand recount wouldn’t start until on or about Monday, July 8.

About a half-dozen Cabán campaigners were gathered in a corner of the Forest Hills office of the Board of Elections attempting to make every single vote count. No number have been officially released, but the margin narrowed to an extremely close extent after Wednesday’s proceedings.

“It’s probably going to be a fairly tight margin,” an attorney for Cabán said.

Caban declared victory back on June 25 when she had a tenuous 1,100-vote lead after all scanners were counted. But on July 3, after the pendulum swung the other way, Katz took her 20-vote lead and used it to declare victory for herself.

“We said from the beginning that every vote needs to be counted and that every voter needs to be heard, and now we see clearly why this must always be the case,” Katz said in a statement. “I am proud to have been chosen as the Democratic nominee for for Queens District Attorney. We know that these numbers can and will be subject to recount, and there may be legal challenges, but what matters most is the will of Queens voters.”

But Caban’s camp countered that the race is far from decided yet.

“Queens voters are inspired by Tiffany Caban’s campaign and her vision for real criminal justice reform. If every valid paper ballot vote is counted, we are confident we will prevail,” said campaign spokesperson Monica Klein.

The count has begun of over 3,550 affidavit and absentee ballots with over 30 poll watchers and counters taking tallies between Borough President Melinda Katz and public defender Tiffany Cabán.

Cabán ended election night on June 25 with a tight 1,100 vote majority of over Borough President Melinda Katz who had an established, decades-long reputation as a leader in Queens. But that number has grown to 2,000 after the full election day count.

Katz refused to concede, insisting that every vote be counted.

“Our expectation is that Cabán will win, but we want to be respectful to all the voters,” Jerry Goldfeder, an election attorney representing Cabán said.

Frank Bolz, an attorney representing Katz, said the same of his candidate while also having his son at the proceedings to tally votes.

According to Board of Elections spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez, the count could go long into the night or be continued on July 5.

Although the BOE has spent the last week preparing to take a full stock of the results, the queer Latina candidate took to the stage at LaBoom in Woodside to claim victory.

Cabán pulled out the big guns for the upcoming count, having retain Goldfeder to help oversee the process. Goldfeder is a special counsel at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan with a focus on election and campaign law as well as a professor at Fordham University’s School of Law.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is claiming he will back Cabán in the general election on Nov. 5 against Daniel Kogan, a private attorney from south Queens.

“I mean part of why New York City is so different today than five or six years ago has been steady reforms in the way we police and in terms of reducing mass incarceration, a whole host of things, and major changes in Albany too. We need to continue that, consolidate it, and I think Tiffany Cabán will be an important ally in that,” de Blasio said on July 2.

Though de Blasio said he would “absolutely” endorse Cabán, there is one issue that he says will divide them: closing jails on Rikers Island.

Cabán has opposed the plan to replace jails on Rikers with borough-based facilities on account her disagreement with any plan for new detention facilities.

“We have to have a corrections system focused on redemption,” de Blasio added. “We can’t do it on Rikers Island for a host of reasons. And I believe that we’re going to get this vote done in the coming months, and move forward, so District Attorneys are important in this discussion but the ultimate decision belongs to me as Mayor and to the City Council.”

The mayor also said that NYPD would toe the line with her policies upon Cabán taking office.

Cabán’s advantage on election night was nearly absolute in western Queens and Ridgewood, as maps from CUNY Graduate Center showed. Deep support for Cabán was contrasted by somewhat pallid coloration in the southeast indicating where Katz receive 50 percent of the vote or more.

The vote was divided among the seven total candidates that included Gregory Lasak, Mina Malik, Jose Nieves, Betty Lugo and Councilman Rory Lancman who backed out of the race the Friday before election day.

The battle resumes on July 5, and QNS will bring you the latest news then.

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