Sunday, July 1, 2012

Charlie Rangel declared victory over State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, but the fight isn't over yet as incumbent's 2,300-vote lead is rapidly shrinking

Slim margin could disappear altogether once official results are in next week. Associated Press finds 79 election districts - many in Washington Heights and South Bronx - as recording no vote

 NY State Senator Adriano Espaillat walks along Broadway by City Hall on May 7, 2012 in Manhattan.

Mariela Lombard for New York Daily News

State Sen. Adriano Espaillat will likely gain more votes when the official election results in his race against Charlie Rangel are tallied next week.

Charlie Rangel's fight to keep his Harlem congressional seat isn’t over yet.
Rangel declared victory Tuesday night, when the Board of Elections tally showed him with a 2,300-vote lead over his main Democratic challenger, State Sen. Adriano Espaillat.
But that slim margin has been shrinking rapidly since then. It fell to 1,075 yesterday, according to The Associated Press. And it could disappear altogether once official results are in next week.
For this confusion, we should thank the perennially incompetent hacks at the Board of Elections.
Amazingly, the Board’s Tuesday night tally listed 79 election districts — 15% of Rangel’s entire congressional district — as recording no votes.
Most of those zeroes were in areas like Washington Heights and the South Bronx, where Espaillat, who is seeking to become the first Dominican-American in Congress, happens to have his biggest base of support.
When AP reporters noticed all those zeroes, they immediately rechecked paper tallies the next day. They found 46 districts where people had in fact gone to the polls. They then counted the votes in those districts, and Espaillat suddenly gained some 1,200 votes over Rangel.
As for the other 33 election districts, AP couldn’t find any paper results. I called Valerie Vazquez, spokeswoman for the Board, several times Thursday to ask about those missing districts. Vazquez did not return my calls.
This is the same Board of Elections that has reportedly spent $160 million in federal and city funds over the past few years to replace the old mechanical voting machines with these electronic scanners.
Yet its staff still can’t find a way to count votes accurately and in a timely manner — even when there’s only one race.
“It’s inexplicable that more than 40 hours after the election, the Board of Elections can’t give us a good count, that we have to depend on the press for more accuracy,” said City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, a supporter of Espaillat.
But those 33 election districts are not the only votes that could affect Rangel’s fate.
The Espaillat and Rangel camps both now say that more than 3,000 people cast paper votes Tuesday. That’s a far higher number than initially believed.
Those votes, known as affidavit ballots, are used when a person’s name doesn’t appear on the election rolls.
The bulk of them, once again, were in Espaillat’s strongholds: northern Manhattan’s Inwood section has 725, and Washington Heights has 668.
The Board’s staff gave Espaillat’s people contradictory information Thursday about when those affidavit ballots would be reviewed and counted, according to several sources.
Rangel’s campaign dismissed the likelihood that the paper ballots could change the outcome.
“A lot of them were probably Dominicans excited over Espaillat’s campaign who simply weren’t registered to vote or maybe not even citizens,” a key Rangel strategist said. “Most of those ballots will be thrown out.”
But if even if two-thirds are rejected, that’s still another 1,000 votes that will count, which is why even Rangel’s people admit his margin will continue to shrink.
Finally, there are 576 absentee ballots that won’t be opened until next week, though such ballots typically reflect whatever the voting trends are on Election Day.
“I’m very confident that at the end there will be a W next to Charlie’s name, even if it’s by 10 votes,” Rangel adviser Bill Lynch said.
But since the entire Democratic Party machine in the city is behind Rangel, it’s no wonder Espaillat and his supporters get suspicious when so many votes in his strongholds somehow don’t get counted.

Shawn Inglima/New York Daily News

Espaillat gained 1,200 votes on Charlie Rangel after AP reporters rechecked votes.
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