Pheffer Amato sues for recount in AD 23 race 1

With the Assembly District 23 race still too close to call, Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato has filed a lawsuit calling for all ballots to be recounted manually. Her challenger, Tom Sullivan, is ahead just 246 votes.

Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Park) is calling for a recount in the general election for Assembly District 23 against Tom Sullivan.

The race, which has remained officially undecided with 246 votes separating the candidates and Sullivan holding the lead with 94 percent of the vote counted, has yet to be called.

Last week, Pheffer Amato said in a statement, “It is important for EVERY vote to be counted. The Board of Elections is currently awaiting absentee, military, overseas and affidavit ballots to be received. While it may take some time, we must embrace the rules and laws in order to have an official result.”

Sullivan was notified of the lawsuit via an email from the Queens Board of Elections office just before 11 p.m. last night, he told the Chronicle. Late last week, he received one informing him that Pheffer Amato was being represented by Sweeney, Reich & Bolz, LLP, Long Island-based attorneys who are mainstays in the Queens Democratic Party. Pheffer Amato and Frank Bolz signed the lawsuit, which lists both Sullivan and the city BOE as respondents.

It calls for the court to order as issue to determine the validity of all ballots cast in the general election, for an accurate tally to be determined under the recanvass of the votes cast and for all ballots to be recanvassed by hand, according to the documents, which were obtained by the Chronicle.

The lawsuit states that over 1,000 absentee and affidavit ballots are left to be counted and that the absentees are done on a rolling basis and the affidavits are scheduled to be canvassed tomorrow, Nov. 16. 

Sullivan was reached out to by the Republican Assembly Committee to provide him with legal counsel.

According to Sullivan, his opponent’s campaign is questioning “abnormally high voter turnout in certain ZIP codes,” such as Breezy Point and Belle Harbor, as well as signature matches. Breezy Point had the highest voter turnout by percentage in the city, according to voter turnout data.

“There are a large number of Paper Ballots cast in the General Election causing a disproportionate number of ballots to be cast by mail in relation to past general elections,” the suit states, including that “the final result of the General Election may be determined by the canvass of the various types of Paper Ballots mentioned.”

But to Sullivan, that wasn’t surprising.

“For a community of middle income, single-family homes in a safe neighborhood, they vote … But I wouldn't attribute that to me. I would attribute that to, for the first time in a long time, we've had a legitimate candidate run for Congress and he happened to be from Belle Harbor,” he said, referring to Paul King, who challenged and lost to incumbent Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens, Nassau) of Congressional District 5.

“So people came out to support him and me,” said Sullivan.

He was informed by a representative from the state Assembly that Pheffer Amato’s attorneys have filed for the thumb drives of the voting machines to be recalculated and for a manual count to be performed.

“I take personal exception with this because this is supposedly the party that wants every vote to count, right?” he said. “She said it and put it in capitals, that every vote should be counted, when she made her statement shortly after the election. And so now she's hired a legal firm to disqualify ballots.” 

The lawsuit alleges that “votes were cast by persons who signed the polling place registration book but were not, in fact, the duly enrolled voter whose name they signed" and that “votes were cast by absentee ballots by persons who signed the absentee ballot but were not, in fact, the duly enrolled voter whose name they signed,” all of which is “unlawful and fraudulent."

Pheffer Amato did not immediately respond to requests for comment.