Elections 2020

Challenger in NYC Democratic Primary Files Lawsuit Over Thousands of Tossed Ballots

The lawsuit filed by Suraj Patel and others claims that thousands of ballots that were mailed on time have been invalidated because they weren’t postmarked, as the outcome of his race against Carolyn Maloney rests on the roughly 65,000 voters in the district who mailed in absentee ballots

PAUL J. RICHARDS

A challenger seeking to unseat veteran Democratic U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney is among the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit filed Friday over the invalidation of thousands of New York state primary ballots that lacked postmarks.

Maloney led challenger Suraj Patel by a few hundred votes after polls closed June 23, but the outcome of the race depends on the roughly 65,000 voters in the district who mailed in absentee ballots.

Nearly 400,000 absentee ballots were cast across New York City, a number that was far higher than is typical owing to the coronavirus pandemic, and votes are still being counted in several races.

The lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court by Patel, state Assembly candidate Emily Gallagher and 13 voters alleges that thousands of ballots that were mailed on time by June 23 have been invalidated because they weren’t postmarked.

Under an executive order signed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo to expand use of absentee ballots during the pandemic, voters were sent absentee ballots with postage-paid return envelopes, which are not typically postmarked by the U.S. Post Office. But state election law requires ballots to be postmarked by the date of the election to count.

Cassie Moreno, a spokesman for Patel, who is seeking to unseat Maloney in a district that includes parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, said that 28% of absentee ballots in Brooklyn have been invalidated so far, a number she called “astronomical.”

“Through no fault of the voters we have ballots that were mailed on June 23, were not postmarked, received by June 27 and are counted as invalid,” Moreno said.

The lawsuit, which names Cuomo along with the state Board of Elections and top officials with the board as defendants, asks that all ballots received by June 30 be counted.

Messages seeking comment were sent to Cuomo’s office and to the Board of Elections.

Patel, a lawyer, activist and lecturer on business ethics at New York University, is running for the second time against Maloney, who has served in Congress since 1993.

Gallagher, a community board member and activist, is seeking to unseat Democratic Assemblyman Joe Lentol in Brooklyn.

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