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Queens Chronicle

Katz-Cabán recount may take 3 weeks

Ballot-by-ballot scrutiny is about 22 percent complete, says BOE

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Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2019 10:30 am

The meticulous recount of more than 90,000 paper ballots cast in last month’s district attorney primary will take at least a week longer than first predicted.

A lawyer for the city Board of Elections on Wednesday told a special judge overseeing the recount of the election between insurgent Tiffany Cabán and Borough President Melinda Katz that the board “hoped” to finish by July 31.

That would extend the recount — which began last Monday — from two weeks as first thought to three.

The BOE has never been faced with a recount larger than 30,000 ballots, officials said, which made estimating the workload difficult.

So far, four of the borough’s 18 Assembly districts have been recounted — 20,000 ballots in all or about 22 percent of the total, a spokeswoman for the BOE said Wednesday.

Because the count began with the election districts in Eastern Queens, Katz’s strongest area, the first tallies are expected show her in the lead.

The count will work its way across the county toward the west, including Astoria, Long Island City and Jackson Heights, the areas that had generally been voting for Cabán.

“I caution all of you to wait until the end of the process,” Cabán’s chief lawyer, Jerry Goldfeder, told reporters Monday morning. “Until we have finished all 18 Assembly districts, we will not know the result.”

On Monday, it took only about 20 minutes for the first dispute to break out between observers for the two campaigns.

A ballot had been marked for Cabán but was disqualified because the voter had also written in the margins of the ballot.

It was an indication of the trench warfare that lay ahead in the contentious recount.

State Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-East Elmhurst), one of several lawmakers who’d backed Cab·n and showed up Monday morning to watch the recount begin, characterized the ballot review process as an “ordeal.”

More than 700 voting machines used in the last month’s election were opened and the paper ballots removed and sorted last week.

In a shopping mall in Middle Village that once housed Toys R Us and Kmart, a small army of election workers, lawyers, legal clerks and campaign volunteers are gathered to count by hand, election district by election district, all the ballots cast on primary day.

The last count indicated that Katz led Cabán by just 16 votes, a paper-thin margin that triggered the recount.

The recounting is structured as a three-step process with several checks along the way.

The raw number of ballots are counted at one table, the votes on each are recorded at a second table and the results confirmed at a third.

Each table is manned by two employees of the BOE and watched by two observers, one from each campaign.

The ballots themselves are boxed and stored in a locked room every night and brought out the next morning.

The tallies on all three worksheets, the BOE’s and the two observers’, must agree before the ballots are returned to the vault.

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