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Queens DA primary race: What to know about the recount

Public defender Tiffany Cabán, left, and Queens Borough

Public defender Tiffany Cabán, left, and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. Photo Credit: Composite image / Getty Images

If you’ve been following the Queens district attorney race, you may feel like you’re riding a roller coaster.

Insurgent candidate Tiffany Cabán, a public defender endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, appeared to emerge victorious in the seven-way Democratic primary on June 25, with Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who has the backing of the borough’s Democratic Party, coming in second.

But Katz did not concede on election night, and after an initial count of absentee and affidavit ballots, she took the lead with fewer than two dozen votes. That tight margin between her and Cabán automatically triggered a manual recount, which was completed Thursday with Katz still leading Cabán.

The ultimate winner of the primary will run in the general election in November to fill the seat left open by former District Attorney Richard Brown, who died in May.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s going on with the recount.

How many people voted?

Nearly 85,500 votes were counted on election day, according to the Board of Elections’ unofficial results. With the absentee and affidavit ballots, the total count will be about 91,000. 

What are absentee ballots?

Absentee ballots are submitted by registered voters who are unable to vote at their polling site on election day.

What are affidavit ballots?

Affidavit, or provisional, ballots are submitted if voters show up at the polls on election day and their names aren’t listed in the polling site’s voter rolls. The BOE is then tasked with verifying that the voters who filed affidavit ballots are eligible. 

As long as the voter is registered and at the right polling site, the vote would be valid. 

What was the count on election night?

Cabán led with 33,814 votes, or 39.6 percent, and Katz was just behind her with 32,724 votes, or 38.3 percent.

What was the split after the absentee and affidavit ballots were counted?

With the final tally from the scanners plus the validated absentee and affidavit ballots, Katz took the lead by just 20 votes, with 34,898 to Cabán’s 34,878, according to The New York Times

Just days later though, Katz’s lead narrowed to 16 votes, when the BOE counted six more ballots that had initially been invalidated. Five of those ballots were for Cabán, and one was for Katz.  

The Board of Elections has not officially announced the results of the recount of about 91,000 ballots.

How many affidavit ballots were dismissed, and why?

About 2,800 affidavit votes were cast on election day, and the BOE initially said under 20 percent were valid, counting just 487, the Times reported. 

A significant number of the ballots were invalidated because the voters didn’t write the word “Democrat” in the party affiliation field of the affidavit form, Cabán’s campaign has said. Other reasons they could have been invalidated include if the voters cast the affidavits at the wrong polling site or if they weren’t registered Democrats.

Cabán’s campaign is challenging dozens of the ballots it believes were wrongfully invalidated and has argued that it is the poll workers’ responsibility to make sure the affidavit ballots are filled out properly and to tell voters their correct polling location if they come to the wrong place.

“If you’re not in the right polling place, the board is supposed to tell you to go to the right polling place,” Cabán campaign lawyer Jerry Goldfeder said. “Instead of doing that, they apparently gave them affidavit ballots, which they should have known wouldn’t be counted because affidavit ballots cast at the wrong polling place won’t be counted.”

As a result, “some voters who voted in the wrong place have been disenfranchised,” Goldfeder said.

The next court date was scheduled for Aug. 6.

With Liam Quigley

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