Thousands of absentee ballots are now taking center stage in races for City Council, especially in Brooklyn.
On Monday, those ballots were opened for the first time. They will be the deciding factor in several tight races in Brooklyn and Queens, especially for a seat in Bay Ridge, currently occupied by Justin Brannan. His GOP challenger, Brian Fox, was 255 votes ahead on election night.
As the counting picked up Monday morning, it was already getting heated.
"The Republicans have attempted to delay as much as possible by objecting to over 500 ballots, including 200 ballots of people of color: Asian, Latino, Arab American, duly registered voters, all of whom are entitled to vote, who have voted by mail in the past,” said Justin Brannan campaign spokesperson Matthew Rey.
The Fox campaign fired back.
"I don't think anyone can look at a voter registration or a ballot and tell what the color of a person is,” said Liam McCabe, Fox’s campaign manager. “So that's just an absurd claim. The reality is we are ahead. We're probably going to continue to be ahead and win this election and they are just spinning at the wheels making insane comments."
Those comments were made in a warehouse near the Brooklyn waterfront, where dozens of Board of Elections employees were opening up thousands of absentee ballots. A vast majority of those ballots in that council race are from registered Democrats. The Brannan campaign thinks it can make up the difference.
Meanwhile, the Fox campaign was raising questions about the absentee ballots that had been cast. McCabe claimed some ballots from dead voters have ended up at the Board of Elections.
Citywide, more than 91,000 New Yorkers voted by absentee ballot in this general election — ballots that could help determine other races.
For instance, in another part of Southern Brooklyn, these ballots could make or break it for Ari Kagan, who was leading his GOP opponent Mark Szuszkiewicz by a couple hundred votes.
And in Queens, where Republican Vickie Paladino was leading former state senator Tony Avella, who was trying to return to his old council seat.
All of this was occurring as the State Senate elections committee released a much-anticipated report on reforming the city's election administration.
That report recommended overhauling the city Board of Elections, including reducing the number of commissioners and decoupling it from the county political parties.
That comes on the heels of a NY1 investigation examining cronyism and nepotism at the board.
"My goal really is for us to focus on how we can best administer the elections, remove any unnecessary influences and restore credibility and integrity to the process," said State Senator Zellnor Myrie, who chairs the committee.
It's unclear whether these proposals would get enough support in both the State Senate and the State Assembly.