- Last Updated: 7:22 PM, July 2, 2012
- Posted: 1:20 PM, July 2, 2012
Lawyers for state Sen. Adriano Espaillat could push for an entirely new vote in a congressional primary race that had appeared to be won by Rep. Charles Rangel, after a judge on Monday gave them permission to broaden their legal arguments.
In a brief procedural hearing, State Supreme Court Justice Donna Mills granted Espaillat's team permission to withdraw its petition, allowing it to adjust its arguments and refile. Espaillat spokesman Ibrahim Khan said the team would submit a new, broader petition later this week.
Khan said the move could allow the campaign to push for a new vote in a race that appeared decided last week on election night when the state senator conceded to Rangel, who has served the district in Congress since 1970 and held onto his seat despite an ethics scandal that led to his censure in the House in 2010.
But subsequent developments made some question whether the concession came too soon.
"Although a winner was declared at 7 p.m. that night, there were as many as 70 election districts that showed as having zero votes cast," Khan said. "The most important thing is that we be able to count every single vote and we do so transparently."
A tally released by the New York City Board of Elections over the weekend showed Rangel with a lead of 802 votes and about 2,000 absentee or other ballots still to be counted. That count is set to begin Thursday, and could lead to a full manual recount if the final vote difference is less than one-half of 1 percent of all votes cast.
This year, redistricting made the 13th Congressional District, which covers Harlem, majority Hispanic — a change that seemingly favored Espaillat, a native of the Dominican Republic. Rangel, facing one of his toughest fights in more than four decades, spoke on the campaign trail about his Puerto Rican heritage and connections.
Moises Perez, Rangel's campaign manager, said outside of court that he was waiting to see what happens.
"I think generally what they're asking for is clarity. And that's exactly what we want," he said.
Perez said he had seen no evidence to suggest that there is a problem with transparency. He said he didn't believe the fight would draw out until the election, although Khan promised: "We'll be here as long as it takes to count every single vote."
Board of Elections spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez maintained there had been no problem with transparency.
"They have been given complete access to the entire process," she said of the candidates. But campaign workers have been asked to stand somewhat away from those tallying the vote to give them a working space and prevent interference, she said.
A number of Espaillat supporters filled the courtroom and rallied outside after the hearing, chanting "si, se puede," which is Spanish for "yes, it can be done."
One supporter, Espana Aristay, said she had witnessed voting irregularities as a volunteer poll watcher for the Espaillat campaign on Election Day. She saw people improperly asked for identification and turned away without being given an affidavit ballot as was required, she said. Vazquez, the Board of Elections spokeswoman, said that in certain circumstances, federal law requires that voters be asked for ID, and she denied that any voters were turned away.
Aristay said her concerns went beyond her allegiance to one candidate.
"This is not about Espaillat or Rangel. This is about fraud," she said.