Things are getting tense at the Board of Elections office in Brooklyn today where the count of absentee and provisional ballots from last week’s State Senate special election continues to progress, and the Democratic candidate, Lew Fidler, has narrowed his deficit to only 10 votes and is reasonably likely to be leading at the end of the day.
However, the campaigns of both Mr. Fidler and the Republican candidate, David Storobin, are contesting ballots initially ruled valid, causing those votes to be temporarily set aside until all of the uncontested votes have finished being counted.
A reader following the proceedings told The Politicker that lawyers for the Republican candidate, David Storobin, are currently contesting an unusually large swath of Democratic ballots in one of the electoral districts being tabulated. If true, this could have the effect of temporarily inflating Mr. Storobins’ tally since votes more favorable to him would be among the uncontested ballots.
However, Mr. Storobin’s campaign firmly believes Mr. Fidler’s team is attempting to accomplish the same effect with their own set of objections.
They claim a batch of votes contested by Mr. Fidler’s campaign was selected purely because they were cast by voters with Russian names (Mr. Storobin himself is an immigrant from Russia and performed well in Russian neighborhoods). Indeed, Mr. Storobin’s campaign is holding a rally in front of Mr. Fidler’s campaign headquarters later this afternoon to protest this “tactic of ethnic exclusion.”
The exact circumstances are unclear, but an article in The New York Times yesterday illuminates the situation slightly, reporting, “Lawyers for Mr. Fidler’s campaign said they had identified 177 people who had filled out applications for absentee ballots claiming permanent disability, ballots that were collected by the same woman.”
In New York State, unlike some other places in the country, absentee ballots are not valid unless the voter is physically unable to vote, such as being disabled or being outside of the county in question on Election Day. Thus, one cannot simply vote absentee by choice, which is what Mr. Fidler’s campaign likely believes happened with that particular batch of ballots. However, it’s not immediately clear how easy it is to prove to the Board of Elections a particular voter was capable of voting in person — but elected not to — and this whole process may very well end up in court.
Needless to say, how those 177 ballots are ultimately counted could have a drastic impact on which candidate wins.
“But even if we end up going down in the tally at the end of today, keep in mind we have that huge pocket of more than 100 Russian absentees that will go Storobin once they’re counted in court,” David Simpson, a spokesman for Mr. Storobin told The Politicker in an email. “We looked at them and believe they’re valid and will hold up.”