Wary candidates brace for brutal absentee ballot challenges in record-size count
July 9, 2020 Claudia Irizarry Aponte, THE CITY
U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke. Photo: John McCarten/New York City Council
This story was originally published on June 25 by THE CITY. Sign up here to get the latest stories from THE CITY delivered to you each morning.
Rep. Yvette Clarke is latest among legions suing to establish the right to challenge opponents’ votes in a pile of 380,000 mailed in citywide amid New York’s first pandemic primary.
Brooklyn Rep. Yvette Clarke declared victory Tuesday over four Democratic opponents vying for her longtime seat in Congress — a day before the city Board of Elections begins to count a record-size pile of absentee ballots bigger than the 37,106 votes she received on election night.
More quietly, the congresswoman on Monday sued her four opponents in Kings County Supreme Court to establish her right to challenge the official ballot count, even as she leads runner-up Adem Bunkedekko by more than 44 percentage points in the June 23 primary.
She is far from the only candidate who has filed a preemptive lawsuit — highlighting just how uncertain the outlook remains as the Board of Elections prepares to tally a record 379,614 absentee ballots in New York City beginning Wednesday. The Staten Island count started on Monday, kicking off the latest act in a primary turned upside down by the coronavirus crisis.
Of those absentee ballots — offered for the first time to any voter in New York with a contested primary in their district — 112,863 of them were mailed in by Brooklyn residents.
Clarke is being represented by state Assemblymember Latrice Walker (D-Brooklyn), who is an attorney but not typically an election lawyer.
“Congresswoman Yvette Clarke’s campaign was led by Black women and she decided that she wanted her legal representation to be a Black woman,” said a spokesperson for Clarke.
State election law gives candidates 10 days after a primary to seek to intervene, a clock that multiple campaigns said ran out last week.
Wait Drags On
During the in-person counts, known as canvassing, all candidates in a given election will have the opportunity to review each absentee ballot alongside their legal representative and a BOE official.
Those who file legal claims such as Clarke’s will be able to challenge individual ballots based on certain criteria — such as whether the ballot was postmarked in time or if the document was not properly signed by the voter.