While a full recount in the Queens district attorney Democratic primary is about to get underway, there are two types of ballots that have already been the result of intense scrutiny: affidavits and absentees. These votes are usually only scrutinized if a race is too close to call.
"An affidavit ballot is a ballot passed by a voter that goes to the polls but doesn't show up in the books as being registered," election attorney Sara Steiner said. "An absentee ballot is a ballot a voter asks for when they're not going to be around to vote, and they get it sent to them and they send it back directly by mail."
The absentee ballots overwhelmingly favored Melinda Katz, whereas the affidavits, often cast by newer residents and younger voters, could favor Tiffany Cabán.
Many affidavits have already been invalidated — some for omissions or errors, the subject of a court proceeding that will begin Tuesday.
Now, more observers are paying attention to the progress of a bill that passed both houses of the New York state legislature in Albany and would make more of those affidavits count and harder to discard on technicalities.
"Sometimes voters forgot to check off the box that said they were voting in the primary, and we know how confusing these forms can be," said Democratic State Sen. Jessica Ramos of Queens. "We also know how confusing the workers from the BOE [Board of Elections] can be with their instructions sometimes."
The bill passed both houses, but the state Assembly must send it to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. A spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, said it's currently under review, along with nearly 30 other bills changing the state's election laws.
It's unclear if the bill would apply to the Queens DA primary if signed into law, or only future elections
Supporters of Cabán, like Ramos, say the bill should be signed into law and tested in the courts if necessary.
"We don't want to disenfranchise anybody," Ramos said. "We want to make sure that every single vote is counted so that we have a legitimate winner for the race."
Others say it should not be retroactive. "It's unfair really to change the law in the middle of an election so that people cannot know in advance what the standards for casting ballots in advance are going to be," Steiner said.
There are about 800 bills that passed both houses that have not yet been sent to the governor, so it's not unusual. But supporters of Cabán also note that Cuomo and Heastie both supported Katz in the DA race, not Cabán. Cuomo raised money for Katz, and Heastie made campaign contributions.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Katz said, "The Cabán Campaign will try to do everything in their power to manipulate the vote totals in their favor. First, they declared victory before thousands of paper votes were counted, then they wanted to cherry-pick 20 ballots to be counted from their supporters. Now, their latest Hail Mary attempt focuses on legislation that won't do what they claim it will. We have said from Day One that we want all valid votes to be counted, and expect the process to come to a speedy conclusion that voters deserve."
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