Legal fight over Queens DA ballots will continue with review of affidavits

Jerry Goldfeder, center, a campaign attorney for Tiffany Cabán, argues in Queens Supreme Court on Wednesday for the restoration of invalidated ballots in the Democratic primary race for Queens district attorney.  Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Attorneys for Democratic primary winner Melinda Katz argued that the challenge brought by Tiffany Cabán’s camp is a “circus” that deserves to be dismissed.

Jerry Goldfeder, center, a campaign attorney for Tiffany Cabán, argues in Queens Supreme Court on Wednesday for the restoration of invalidated ballots in the Democratic primary race for Queens district attorney. 
Jerry Goldfeder, center, a campaign attorney for Tiffany Cabán, argues in Queens Supreme Court on Wednesday for the restoration of invalidated ballots in the Democratic primary race for Queens district attorney.  Photo Credit: Bad Axe Throwing

A legal challenge to invalidated ballots in the Queens district attorney primary election will continue.

Judge John G. Ingram will review 28 affidavit ballots that weren’t counted in the race between Melinda Katz and Tiffany Cabán because voters did not mark their political party. He scheduled a hearing for 10:30 a.m. Aug. 6 at the Board of Elections office in Forest Hills after both campaigns’ attorneys argued in Queens Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Katz was declared the winner of the primary race on Monday after a manual recount of ballots left her with a 60-vote lead on Cabán, who was ahead after polls closed on election night. However, Cabán’s camp contends that some 114 ballots were wrongly invalidated by the Board of Elections, including affidavits cast at the wrong polling sites and affidavits that didn’t mark "Democrat" on them. 

Wednesday’s two-and-a-half-hour conference on the court’s sixth floor was a battle of technicalities and alleged Board of Election administrative errors. Cabán’s election attorney, Jerry Goldfeder, argued that the Board of Elections mismanaged polling sites and ballots. Goldfeder told the judge some ballots were never opened, 67 were invalidated because of missing political party affiliation, and one was invalidated because of an incomplete address.

He also said 22 voters were misdirected by poll workers, including two whose votes were invalidated because they were wrongly told to go to a different polling site, and 12 voters who the board says were not properly registered. Goldfeder offered 22 witnesses to support the claims, but Ingram denied the request to have them heard.

“If the court reviews the erroneously invalidated affidavit ballots … then I think the margin will change in Cabán’s favor,” said Goldfeder after Wednesday’s hearing. “Should the voter be disenfranchised because the poll worker didn’t help them out? I don’t think so.”

Gerard Sweeney, center, a campaign attorney for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, seeks to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Tiffany Cabán.
Gerard Sweeney, center, a campaign attorney for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, seeks to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Tiffany Cabán. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Representing Katz, attorney Gerard Sweeney argued for the case’s complete dismissal.

“This is a circus that’s going on in here,” Sweeney told the judge. “Everything they are trying to do is distract  everyone. They lost the election fair and square.”

Katz’s team contended that Cabán’s attorneys didn’t make their objections in a timely fashion. Sweeney also argued that Cabán’s team watched Board of Election workers count the more than 940,000 ballots cast one by one.

“They want to prove one ballot so they can lose by 59 votes instead of 60,” he said.

Li Yakira Cohen