Recount begins in too-close-to-call Queens DA  primary

Borough President Melinda Katz (right) leads public defender Tiffany Cabán by 16 votes ahead of the countywide recount. AP Photos/Seth Wenig

Borough President Melinda Katz (right) leads public defender Tiffany Cabán by 16 votes ahead of the countywide recount. AP Photos/Seth Wenig

By David Brand

Queens’ first countywide recount in 64 years began Monday at a Board of Elections facility in Middle Village, with Borough President Melinda Katz leading public defender Tiffany Cabán by just 16 votes in the Democratic primary for district attorney.

A tight Democratic primary for Queens DA in 1955 also resulted in a recount, with State Sen. Frank O’Connor defeating incumbent DA T. Vincent Quinn by fewer than 1,500 votes.

Connor led by about 2,000 votes after Election Night, the New York Times reported at the time, but Quinn managed to pick up about 500 votes in the recount, illustrating how initial election returns are not set in stone. 

That’s something the Cabán campaign is banking on.

“This election is far from over, with many valid votes left to be counted. In the days ahead, the manual recount will yield potentially hundreds of additional votes that were not previously captured by voting machines and we will fight to make sure all valid votes are counted,” said Cabán’s campaign spokesperson Daniel Lumer. 

Cabán’s team has also challenged the disqualification of several affidavit ballots in Queens Supreme Court. Affidavit ballots, also known as provisional ballots, are completed by voters whose names do not appear on the voter rolls at their polling place for a variety of reasons — they may not have actually registered to vote, for example; or there could be a mistake by the BOE. More than 100 affidavit ballots were deemed invalid by the BOE because the voters did not indicate their party enrollment.

The too-close-to-call result, combined with arcane nuances of state election law and mistrust of the political establishment, has generated conspiracy theories and concerns about fraud, abuse and voter suppression. There has been no evidence of malfeasance and election attorneys say the process has been transparent, however.

Katz’s team says Cabán’s campaign has stoked those concerns. Her spokesperson Matthew Rey, a consultant with Red Horse Strategies, denounced efforts to “undermine faith in the electoral system.”

“The recount process is by nature a slow and meticulous one, with multiple checks and balances,” Rey said. “It must run its course until every legally valid vote is counted.”

The recount began with votes cast in Assembly Districts 23, 24, 25 and 26, each of which Katz won in the June 25 primary.

The other five DA candidates — former Judge Gregory Lasak, former Civilian Complaint Review Board Director Mina Malik, former state Attorney General’s Office prosecutor Jose Nieves, attorney Betty Lugo and Councilmember Rory Lancman — will also see their vote totals adjusted during the recount.