Recount in Queens DA primary begins as fate of 114 contested provisional ballots remains unclear

The process of sorting through ballots in the contested race for the Democratic nomination for Queens district attorney gets underway at a Board of Election facility on Tuesday.  Photo Credit: Liam Quigley

Board of Election staff started opening bins and sorting ballots on Tuesday.

The process of sorting through ballots in the contested race for the Democratic nomination for Queens district attorney gets underway at a Board of Election facility on Tuesday. 
The process of sorting through ballots in the contested race for the Democratic nomination for Queens district attorney gets underway at a Board of Election facility on Tuesday.  Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

On the ground floor of Rentar Plaza in Middle Village, the process of recounting some 90,000 votes in the contested primary race for Queens district attorney was off to a busy start on Tuesday.

Bipartisan Board of Election staff members began opening the more than 700 blue bins and sorting the ballots pulled from inside under the watchful eyes of representatives working for Melinda Katz and Tiffany Cabán — the two candidates who find themselves neck-in-neck for the Democratic nomination. 

"It’s no small task," said Valerie Vazquez, director of communications for the Board of Elections. 

“It’s going smoothly, but again, we’re talking about 774 of these bins that have to be opened. So it is labor intensive,” she said. “There was a recount in Brooklyn, but that was a State Senate. So it’s smaller numbers. Now you’re talking about the entire county of Queens.” 

The manual recount is expected to take at least 10 days.

The candidates have been locked in a ballot battle that brought lawyers from both camps into Queens Supreme Court earlier in the day, where they discussed what should happen to some 114 contested provisional ballots. Lawyers for the candidates will be back in court on July 17. 

Councilman Donovan Richards, who represents parts of southeast Queens and is a political ally of Katz, said he has faith in the recount. Richards won a 2013 special election after a re-tallying of ballots.

“I’m a prime example of what this process looks like. I had a special election in 2013. I want to say that I went into the process a little leery,” Richards said.

“But it was such a seamless, straightforward, fair process that it gave me more confidence in the way the system works,” he added.

Liam Quigley