As absentee ballots were being counted today for last week’s State Senate special election, both campaigns had the opportunity to challenge ballots initially ruled valid, causing those votes to be set aside for later evaluation in a fairly normal procedural process. However, in a statement blasted out this evening, the campaign of the Republican candidate, David Storobin, charged that operatives working for the Democratic candidate, Lew Fidler, were systemically gaming the count by targeting ballots with Russian names on them (Mr. Storobin is himself a Russian immigrant).
Although the total number of challenges from both side are not immediately available, it is generally true that if one campaign challenges many more ballots than the other, it creates an appearance of a larger lead than reality, which sets in when many or most of those contested ballots are confirmed to be valid and returned to the count after the uncontested votes have finished being tallied.
It’s not necessarily an uncommon practice to challenge ballots seen to likely favor the opposing candidate during these types of proceedings. Even the most remote chance of having a vote for one’s rival ruled invalid works to a campaign’s advantage when the final margin could be just a handful of votes.
(It’s also theoretically possible that the Russian-speaking community, for whatever reason, simply contained more voters whose ballots were not 100% perfect.)
However, Mr. Storobin’s campaign argued that any sort of targeting against Russian voters was morally wrong and went beyond reasonableness during today’s process.
“As the afternoon has progressed, a troubling pattern has emerged in the Fidler campaign’s objections to absentee ballots. It has become clear that they have shifted to a tactic of ethnic exclusion, objecting to almost all of the absentee ballots from the Russian election districts and with Russian last name,” Mr. Storobin’s campaign spokesman, David Simpson, charged. “Dozens and dozens of Russian votes are not being counted today because of the Fidler campaign’s objections to these votes.”
“David Storobin strongly condemns any effort to exclude any part of the community based on ethnic bias. He is calling for every vote to be counted by the same standard so that a winner can be declared and the people od the 27th District will finally have representation in the State Senate,” he concluded.
The Board of Elections only counted about half the total number of absentee and provisional ballots today, so much will still shift around before all is said is done.
Update: Mr. Fidler’s campaign manager Kalman Yeger told Yossi Gestetner why their campaign challenged Mr. Storobin’s votes:
“It has become clear that the Storobin team has run an illegal mail-in campaign which is not permitted in New York. We do not know the ethnicity of any voter but we do know that people who voted twice should have only one vote counted. Worse, the Board of Election discovered that many people who claimed on the absentee ballots to be permanently invalids somehow showed up to vote in person too on Election Day…”