What to Know
- Eighty percent of the approximately 2,800 affidavit ballots cast in the 2019 Democratic primary for Queens DA were disqualified
- However, it’s not clear how many of the voided voters still don't realize their ballots didn’t count
- Some voters on the list said the Board of Elections has so far failed to notify them — even as a high stakes court battle proceeds
Eighty percent of the approximately 2,800 affidavit ballots cast in the 2019 Democratic primary for Queens DA were disqualified — but it’s not clear how many of the voided voters still don't realize their ballots didn’t count.
The I-Team obtained a list of more than 2,300 disqualified voters. Though the list was not confirmed by the Board of Elections, two sources close to the ongoing court challenge between Tiffany Caban and Melinda Katz did confirm the list.
Some voters on the list said the Board of Elections has so far failed to notify them — even as a high stakes court battle proceeds to determine if Katz's narrow victory over Caban should stand.
“I have not received any such notification (or any mail otherwise) from the Board of Elections,” said Sophie Epstein, a registered Democrat who said her vote for Tiffany Caban disqualified because she failed to check the “Democrat” box on her affidavit ballot.
Mark Miller, a long-time Astoria resident, told the I-Team his vote for Caban was voided after a poll worker advised him to cast an affidavit ballot at the wrong polling place.
“We should be finding reasons to count the votes, right? Not reasons to not count the votes,” Miller said.
CHECK THE SEARCHABLE LIST OF DISQUALIFED VOTES BELOW TO SEE IF YOUR BALLOT WAS NOT COUNTED
Both Epstein and Miller say they found out about their disqualified votes — not from the BOE — but from the Caban campaign, which reached out to tell them.
Caban is now asking a judge to count dozens of invalidated votes — in an effort to make up the 60-vote lead that originally propelled Katz to a certified victory in the DA race.
The Katz campaign said it has made no effort to reach out to its own disqualified voters, though many of the voided affidavits were surely filed in support of her. Matthew Rey, a Katz campaign adviser, criticized Caban for reaching out to some of the disqualified voters on her side.
“The right to privacy and the secret ballot is a paramount part of our democracy, and one that Tiffany Caban’s campaign has infringed upon,” Rey wrote in an email to the I-Team. “Her team has been repeatedly hounded voters in order to cherry-pick supporters and disqualify those who opposed her.”
Valerie Vasquez, a BOE spokeswoman said letters to disqualified voters went out shortly after the election was certified, but since that happened just over a week ago - some voters may not have received them.
A Ridgewood voter, whose asked his name remain private, told the I-Team his ballot was voided because he failed to write the word “Democrat” on the affidavit. He also heard from Caban's campaign, but said he’s yet to hear from the BOE.
“I voted via affidavit ballot. It was invalidated and I received no notification from the Board of Elections," he said. "It doesn’t seem to be interested in solving the problem that is leading to the invalidation.”
This isn’t the first time city election officials have been accused of bungling the electoral process. After the 2016 primary election, the BOE admitted to improperly purging tens of thousands of voters from election rolls after Common Cause, a nonprofit good government watchdog, sued in federal court.
To settle the suit, election officials agreed to reform the voter purge process and deliver periodic reports — detailing how many voters were removed from rolls each month.
Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause, NY, said the recount process in Queens has been transparent and orderly, but she criticized the BOE more generally for failing to fully implement reforms and install a new management plan that would standardize voter purging and eliminate abuses.
"The consent decree tries to set up some straight forward management controls. As far as we can tell none of those controls are in place," Lerner said. "There is no way to know."
Vasquez responded to the criticism, saying the BOE has indeed implemented reforms.
"The plaintiffs [Common Cause] have acknowledged that the Board has made significant improvements to the Board's voter registration and list maintenance process as it implements the Consent Decree," Vasquez wrote in an email to the I-Team.
She said those improvements included upgrades to the technical system for processing voter changes to ensure compliance with state and federal election law.
Voters in the Queens DA election were invalidated for a host of reasons, including not being enrolled in the Democratic Party, not casting votes at proper polling locations, and not fully filling out the paper forms.
The court challenge to Katz's election victory is ongoing.