NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The New York City Board of Elections began the slow and tedious process of counting about 2,000 absentee and affidavit ballots Thursday in the contested Democratic primary in a district where veteran Rep. Charles Rangel is trying to hold on to his chance for a 22nd term.
The New York City Board of Elections’ tally at the end of the day has Rangel leading state Sen. Adriano Espaillat by 945 votes. That’s up from the 802-vote margin he had before the count started.
Meanwhile, Bronx State Supreme Court Justice John Carter ruled Thursday the NYC BOE can certify the election, but can’t transmit the result to the state Board of Elections until he approves it.
That transmission is the final step to make an election result official.
The 13th Congressional District race appeared decided last week on election night, with Rangel seemingly holding a sizable lead. But the vote margin shrank, leading some to wonder if state Sen. Adriano Espaillat conceded too soon.
WCBS 880′s Steve Knight reports
There could be a full manual recount if the final difference is less than one-half of 1 percent of all votes cast. More than a dozen members of each candidate’s camp monitored the counting as it began at a Lower Manhattan office.
“This is a good example of every vote counts,” said Vincent Torres, a Rangel supporter who was there to observe the counting process.
In the crowded room, there were two tables for counting — one each for 68th and 69th Assembly Districts, which are in the 13th Congressional District.
The vote also included GOP ballots from the U.S. Senate primary, a far smaller number because the district is heavily Democratic.
At each table, a bipartisan team of four elections board employees — two Democrats and two Republicans — recorded the number of ballots that had already been validated by the elections board. These include absentee, affidavit, military and federal ballots.
Later the ballots were placed in an electronic scanning machine, which officially counts the votes.
Also at each table were two observers for the Espaillat campaign plus a watcher and a lawyer for Rangel. Both campaigns were allowed lawyers and observers, but Espaillat only sent observers.
The counting process remained generally civil, although at times the two camps sparred over ballot irregularities and bureaucratic minutiae.
In court in the Bronx, Espaillat’s lawyer argued to Carter that he wants to maintain the option of reviewing any irregularities.
“We have identified many instances in which people were turned away from the polls,” Leo Glickman said, adding he’s reviewing possible voter suppression, too.
A New York City lawyer arguing for the board of elections, though, said Espaillat’s camp is overreaching.
“They want carte blanche to inspect the voting machines — their allegation of fraud has no specificity,” Stephen Kitzinger said.
Rangel’s lawyer, Arthur Greig, accused Espaillat’s campaign of trying to slow down the process to score political points.
“He’s not going to overcome an 802-vote lead,” Greig said. “He’s doing this to slow down the vote and keep his name in the press.”
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