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Manhattan/Queens Congressional primary candidates urge Cuomo to reinstate tossed ballots

Board of Elections workers review an absentee ballot in Queens on July 8, 2020. (Photo by Dean Moses)

All four candidates in the Democratic primary for New York’s 12th Congressional district are calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to help bring votes back from the dead.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and her three opponents in the June 23 primary, Suraj Patel, Lauren Ashcraft and Peter Harrison, released a joint statement Friday asking the governor to amend an executive order that deemed absentee ballots invalid if not postmarked by the Post Office. Nearly 20% of absentee ballots in the district were thrown out by city’s Board of Elections this week because of absent postmarks, absent signatures, or errant marks on the ballots.

“As many are now aware, an issue with postage meant that a portion of absentee ballots were returned without postmark – invalidating them under the law,” the letter read. “The Board has already agreed to count ballots received without a postmark before the 24th – now we are asking that they agree to count all ballots received without a postmark.”

Candidates across the city have argued in recent weeks — the absentee ballot count began throughout the city the week of July 6 — that voters should not be punished for a missing postmark, a responsibility of the Post Office.

“Put bluntly: A missing postmark, over which voters had no control, should not disenfranchise those voters,” said Maloney, Patel, Ashcraft and Harrison, who are fighting to represent the east side of of Manhattan, parts of northwest Queens and northwest Brooklyn.

This year’s absentee ballot count was an historic one. As encouraged by Cuomo and the Board of Elections, hundreds of thousands New Yorkers requested absentee ballots for the June Democratic primary in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

This was also the first year the Board of Elections sent business envelops, which don’t require postmarks, for voters to use to return their ballots, according to Benjamin Rosenblatt, the president of Tidal Wave Strategies, a political consulting firm.

“Many people may have their ballots rejected through no fault of their own,” Rosenblatt said. “We don’t know yet how big of an impact that has had.”

Following in-person voting on June 23, Maloney held a 648 vote lead over Patel, who also challenged the incumbent in 2018. With over 52,000 absentee ballots left to count, Maloney’s lead is anything but stable.

The Board of Elections did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This story first appeared on QNS.com.

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