Supporters of State Senator Adriano Espaillat are calling for a federal monitor to step in and oversee the counting of votes in his congressional race against longtime Congressman Charlie Rangel after reports of uncounted votes emerged yesterday. Mr. Rangel was initially declared the victor by the Associated Press and in unofficial totals from the Board of Elections after the election on Tuesday, but the AP subsequently published a report claiming results from 33 of the 506 precincts in the Upper Manhattan district remained uncounted. Mr. Espaillat’s supporters announced their push for a federal monitor at a press conference in front of Mr. Rangel’s office in Harlem where some of the attendees also made allegations of voter fraud at the polls Tuesday.
“I’m here today to call for a federal monitor on the Board of Elections. It is unacceptable that 48 hours after the elections took place….we don’t have the outcome of this election,” said Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, a close ally of Mr. Espaillat’s. “We also have a lot of concerns that still the Board of Elections has not received [results from] a number of election districts. We don’t know where they are, they don’t know where they are.”
Though Mr. Rodriguez did not provide specific numbers or locations of the precincts where votes remain uncounted, he said most of these precincts are in areas favorable to Mr. Espaillat inside his State Senate district.
“Most of the election districts that the Board has not received, they are from our district. They are Adriano Espaillat’s numbers,” Mr. Rodriguez said as the crowd chanted Mr. Espaillat’s name. “I am completely convinced that Senator Adriano Espaillat will be a congressman at the end of this process.”
The Board of Elections initially told The Politicker and both the Espaillat and Rangel campaigns that the unofficial results showed Mr. Rangel beating Mr. Espaillat with 16,252 voters or 45.7 percent to Mr. Espaillat’s 13,921 votes, 39.1 percent of the total with 100 precincts reported. Unofficial results do not include affidavit ballots submitted by absentee voters and those whose name is not on the rolls when they arrive at the polling place, however the numbers initially reported by the Board of Elections gave Mr. Rangel a 6.6 percent margin that was more than enough of a cushion to weather any changes caused by the outstanding affidavit ballots. The Associated Press report placed Mr. Rangel’s actual margin of victory at a much smaller 2.8 percent and said the returns from the 33 precincts outstanding along with the affidavit ballots. The Board of Elections has not responded to multiple phone calls and emails from The Politicker asking them to explain the discrepancy or identify how many precincts remain uncounted. However, sources with knowledge of the situation said the Board communicated to the campaigns yesterday and confirmed the AP report.
Lawyers for the Espaillat campaign led by Leo Glickman have been at the Board of Elections monitoring the situation. In an email to The Politicker, Mr. Glickman claimed Board of Elections officials told him they were ordered not to give out information about which precincts remain uncounted.
“The Board of Elections staff is not allowing us to get the tallies. They are very nice but they are apparently acting on orders,” Mr. Glickman wrote. “We are watching people put the memory sticks from each election district from 15 feet away without being able to see the information om the sticks.”
In addition to expressing concerns about the uncounted precincts, Mr. Rodriguez said he believed the affidavit ballots would help Mr. Espaillat close the gap with Mr. Rangel. He claimed the Board of Elections received 3,174 affidavit ballots, mostly from neighborhoods in the 70th, 71st and 72nd Districts which were favorable to Mr. Espaillat.
“Those are election districts where Senator Espaillat won big time,” Mr. Rodriguez said.
Mr. Espaillat was not at the press conference. According to Mr. Rodriguez, “at this moment Senator Espaillat is not speaking, we are looking at the numbers.
One of the Espaillat supporters who joined Mr. Rodriguez at the press conference was Ruben Dario Vargas, who briefly entered the race against Mr. Rangel in April. After less than 24 hours, as a candidate, Mr. Vargas dropped out and began supporting Mr. Espaillat. Mr. Vargas, who said he was “supervising ten polling places” on election day, claimed he saw widespread instances of Dominican voters being forced to use affidavit ballots. Mr. Espaillat would be the first congressman of Dominican descent and his base of support is within the Dominican community.
“It was a common factor when a person with a Spanish accent–a Dominican Spanish accent, went to vote they were saying, ‘You’re not on the list.’ They were not finding them,” Mr. Vargas said. “Then, they were telling them ‘OK, you want to vote? Affidavit.”
Mr. Vargas also claimed some of the affidavit ballots were being tampered with by poll workers.
“I had a tremendous problem with Cynthia Doty, who is a district leader in that area,” Mr. Vargas said. “She was going around with other people cutting the seal on the affidavit ballots and replacing the seal on the affidavit ballots.”
In an interview on NY1’s Inside City Hall last night, Mr. Rangel said he wasn’t following the evolving situation with the results in his race because he was busy in Washington.
“I’m not hearing anything because I’ve been on the floor, I’ve been at legislative meetings, I’ve been at caucuses,” Mr. Rangel said. “Quite frankly, since last night, the New York people have been dealing with the numbers….I’m anxious to analyze what the figures mean and so long as the victory is there, I think I’ll just proceed with my present term and then see what we have to do better or whatever the situation may be.”