Still Counting in Closest City Council Race

Democrats Robert Cornegy and Kirsten John Foy are still awaiting voting results from the primary in their continuing battle to become the Democratic nominee for City Council District 36, representing Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights. (Photos from respective official websites)

Democrats Robert Cornegy (left) and Kirsten John Foy are still awaiting voting results from their primary race to become the Democratic nominee for City Council District 36, representing Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights. (Photos from their campaign websites)

Nearly three weeks after primary day, the City Council race with the tightest margin is still being contested. Prior to a recount that began on September 26, Robert Cornegy was leading Kirsten John Foy by only 68 votes in the Democratic primary.

In an article on the Amsterdam News, Nayaba Arinde spoke to the two candidates as they argue over ballots to become their party’s nominee for District 36, which encompasses Bedford-Stuybesant and Crown Heights in Brooklyn.

The two are running for the seat vacated by three-term Councilman Albert Vann, a veteran politician who represented Bed-Stuy in the state Assembly for 27 years. The “esteemed” statesman is lending his support to Cornegy, who is the area’s district leader. Foy is a community activist who has worked for Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network, as well as under Public Advocate Bill de Blasio as an assistant. Citing ballot-counting anomalies, Foy is pushing for 1,000 disqualified paper ballots to be counted.

At the crux of this ongoing fight happening in the street-level political theater is Foy’s consternation that the [Board of Elections] has thrown out over 1,000 votes. With almost 14,000 votes cast, Foy’s campaign is demanding that 1,000 paper ballots disqualified by the board be counted.

“We win on paper, but we lose with the machines,” Foy told the AmNews. “We want all the votes counted. The Board of Elections invalidated 1,000 ballots—so, in their mind, they are illegitimate—but we want them to be validated.” Foy’s team notes that some of these votes were from Democratic-registered voters who wrote their name, address and votes correctly, but failed to write their Democratic enrollment out on the affidavit form separate from the actual ballot. The Foy team contends that the board knows a voter’s party enrollment and the voters appropriately voted in the correct primary. Also, according to Foy’s campaign team, some of these votes were from voters who voted at the wrong polling place but in the right council district and assembly district after a redistricting year. Voters have expressed that the board failed to adequately notify people of changes to their polling place or provide those directions when they arrived at the wrong polling site.

Foy’s campaign pointed out that when counting voting machine results, 105 votes separated the two candidates, only to be narrowed down further to a 68-vote margin after the inclusion of absentee and affidavit votes.

As per the Board of Elections on Monday, Sept. 23, the total count of votes for the two candidates was 4,367 for Cornegy to 4,299 for Foy.

But did the board miss some papers ballots?

But team Foy stated, “Last Thursday, the Board of Elections indicated it had found more paper ballots in this race, a day after it had communicated to the campaign that all the paper ballots had been counted.”

Further voting result irregularities surfaced in one of the machines.

Last Tuesday, a machine that had allegedly been recanvassed by both the board and the campaign and had returned the same results numerous times, mysteriously turned up higher counts of votes for the first time, despite the board indicating its recanvassing of voting machines was completed on Monday. This machine also only included votes for the City Council candidates—not mayoral candidates or candidates in any other race. It is highly abnormal that voters would pull the lever only for Council candidates and not those higher up on the ballot; drop-off typically occurs the other way around.”

Both sides acknowledge that the results could take days, or even weeks, to count and finalize. Amidst some accusatory words towards his rival, Cornegy remains optimistic that his lead will hold.

He told the AmNews, “This race was supposed to be certified today [Tuesday, Sept. 24]. We are supposed to be celebrating, but they are trying to steal the election, and so it is going take another two weeks. There has to be some sort of legal recourse. I am fighting for my political life right now, but we are confident that we will emerge victorious after this process takes place.”

Whichever candidate ends up winning will face Republican Veronica Thompson on the November 5 general elections.

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  1. Pingback: Closest City Council Race Has a Winner | Voices of NY

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