Election Officials Declare Winners in Two New York Democratic Primaries After Federal Judge Finds Voters Disenfranchised
Of Election certified the results of the June 23rd primary earlier today. It comes one day after a federal judge issued an order directing board of elections across the state. To re examine their absentee ballot totals to consider votes tossed out for missing a postmark as long as they were received by June 25th. It's just the latest twist in New York's pandemic primary, which saw a tenfold increase in the number of absentee ballots, compared to 2016. Joining us now W. N Y City Hall and politics reporter Bridget Bergen Ridge it let's start with what happened today. The Board of Election certified the results of a primary that took place six weeks ago. That means they finished counting. But why did it take so long? Jamie, You said it right there that we saw that tenfold increase in the number of absentee ballots. People really were taking advantage of this expanded absentee ballot system that Governor Cuomo Did through executive order because of the pandemic, and then the counting process associated with it was very methodical. You know. Absentee ballots can be rejected for a lot of reasons. Missing signatures were among the biggest issues, but Another issue. We first reported here at WNYC and Gothamist was related to ballots invalidated for missing postmarks. Two candidates and 14 voters sued the state Board of Elections and Governor Cuomo, arguing that voters were being disenfranchised through no fault of their own due to missing postmarks. Absentee ballots needed to be postmarked by June 23rd and arrive at the board of Elections by June 30th to count and there was a big decision in that case late last night. Give us a quick overview of that lawsuit. Last week, there was a two day evidentiary hearing where witnesses testified about how the Board of elections handled this flood of absentee ballots and how the United States Post office process them. Some of what we learned was pretty shocking. Like the fact that the Board of elections dropped off more than 34,000 ballots to the post office to mail to voters the day before the primary. That meant voters would need to get that ballot in the mail on June 23rd rushed to a post office box before five if they had any chance of mailing it with a postmark. To make it eligible. And beyond that, there was evidence introduced that showed that more ballots in Brooklyn were invalidated for missing postmarks than in any other borough. Wow. Then tell us more about the ruling issued last night. So Judge Annalisa Torahs presided over this case in the southern district. She found the plaintiff's arguments more persuasive that ballots were in fact treated differently in different parts of the city. She ordered the New York State Board of Elections to direct all local boards to count otherwise valid absentee ballots, missing postmarks as long as they were received by June 25th 2 days after the primary. She also criticized the state's argument that it didn't intentionally disenfranchise voters where they basically pointed to failures by the post office and tried to place the blame on them. She wrote quote. The Constitution is not so toothless. When voters have been provided with absentee ballots image assured that their votes on those ballots will be counted. The state cannot ignore a later discovered a systemic problem that arbitrarily renders those ballots invalid. What does it mean Bridget that the city Board of Election certified the election results? Isn't that a violation of the judge's order? Well. The city also directed its staff in each borough to prepare to count the ballots that qualify under the judge's order. And they said, they're just awaiting direction from the state Board of elections to go ahead and do that. Okay, so assuming the order stands, could it change the outcome of any Racists? You know, is one of the plaintiffs lawyers, Remmy Green said at a press conference this morning. We don't know what we don't know yet certainly one of the plaintiffs Raj Patel, who is a candidate in New York's 12th Congressional District, which covers parts of Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. He's hopeful that this will help because he's currently trailing Carolyn Maloney abi about 3700 votes, but at this point, it's not really clear there are enough votes to change that race. However, there could be other races and other parts of the state that we don't know about. And one of the plaintiff interveners in this case, Maria Coffer who ran for District leader AA position in Queens. She only lost two City council member Karen Causal. It's by about 100 boats, so we'll see if there's anything that changes their 100 votes. Wow. What was the reaction from the State Board of Elections have they signaled any plans to appeal? So I have yet to hear from anyone from the State Board of Elections or the New York Attorney general's office who is representing the state. In this matter. I will note that one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs basically warned the state and governor Cuomo against appealing. Here's attorney, Ali Nagy. Me. Governor Cuomo. Your legacy is on the line. If you will peel this, you'll lose in the appeal, and you will be another second round suppressor votes, and that is not what the governor needs. Now, if the state did appeal, obviously, that matter would go before the Court of Appeals, and it's worth noting. Earlier this summer, this same judge Analisa Torres ruled against the state Board of elections. In another election law case, she overturned their decision to cancel the Democratic presidential primary. That case went before the Court of Appeals and her ruling stands.