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New York: Court Hears Charlie Rangel Ballot Challenge

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

There’s a bit of a worm in the apparent Big Apple primary victory of storied Rep. Charlie Rangel (D).

Rangel originally appeared to have beaten his top competitor, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, by a wide margin. The New York City Board of Elections now says that with normal ballots counted, Rangel is up by only 802 votes, or about 2 percent of votes cast.

But with more than 2,000 other paper ballots, such as provisional and absentee (from city voters as well as military service members overseas), as yet uncounted, his margin could shrink.

The results are still unofficial and there is a possibility, if very slight, that Rangel didn’t actually win the election. Or, at least, that there could be a recount.

The 802-vote margin won’t change until after the Independence Day holiday. “It will stay that way until July 5, when the staff begin to open up all the paper ballots that are outstanding,” Board of Elections Communications Director Valerie Vazquez said.

Espaillat, a voraciously ambitious politico, said that the primary was “a phantom election” and that he knew of a number of instances where voters were turned away from the polls, according to the New York Times.

A New York State Supreme Court judge today heard a complaint from Espaillat’s attorneys.

One possible outcome of judicial intervention: a court begins to supervise vote counting. Or it may reject the complaint, which would likely lead to an appeal to a higher state court.

Operatives in the state and Washington, D.C., think Rangel ran an exceedingly lackluster campaign, so a small final margin of victory would not be much of a surprise to insiders. Yet all the drama and accusations has left New York Democrats scratching their heads.

“There was a lot of, just, wackiness with the way they were finding ballots,” one New York Democratic insider said.

The “wackiness,” in one way or another, is likely to continue. The New York Post reported late this afternoon that there is more legal jockeying to come.

A Rangel spokeswoman did not reply to a request for comment Monday.

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