The New York City Board of Elections certified the results of the June 23rd primary on Tuesday, signaling the end to the protracted counting of ballots. But they did so with a caveat.
In accordance with a ruling in a federal lawsuit over problems with absentee ballot postmarks, city BOE President Patricia Anne Taylor noted that “respectful of the court’s decision,” the Board would put staff on standby to count additional absentee ballots, pending further guidance from the state.
That guidance arrived late on Thursday: more ballots now have to be counted.
Walking back their earlier pledge to appeal the federal ruling, State Board of Elections Democratic commissioners Doug Kellner and Andrew Spano emailed counties directing them to comply with Judge Analisa Torres’s decision. The judge had instructed local boards to count all absentee ballots received on June 24th, regardless of postmarks, and those received by June 25th that were missing a postmark.
Plaintiffs attorney Ali Najmi credited the State Attorney General for deciding not to appeal and supporting an expanded ballot count.
“We are thankful to Attorney General Tish James for standing with the voters and ensuring these votes will be counted as soon as possible, and not delayed because of an unnecessary appeal,” Najmi said.
This decision served as welcome news for one of Najmi's clients, Suraj Patel, the candidate who ran against incumbent Rep. Carolyn Maloney in the 12th Congressional District, which spans portions of Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan’s east side. Earlier this week after the city certified its results, the Associated Press and the New York Times declared Maloney the winner in the race by nearly 3,500 votes.
But Patel never conceded, and has used the visibility of the ongoing tallying in this race as a platform to discuss ways to improve voting by mail in November, like better funding for the United States Postal Service.
On Friday, Patel said the State’s decisions to drop its appeal is “incredibly encouraging.”
“It makes all the sense in the world to count ballots rather than to fight counting them,” he said.
While the ruling is only likely to bring about 1,000 votes back into this race, the ruling did leave open the opportunity for candidates to try to add more ballots to the count if they could prove that they were cast on time. Patel did not rule out that option but insisted his team would not introduce any frivolous claims.
“We want to start counting and then we want to see what options we have to add more ballots to the box,” he said.
Maloney issued her own response to the Board’s decision to resume counting, taking a shot at her opponent.
“I called for these votes to be counted and am glad that they will be, even though counting them will not change the outcome of our race,” Maloney said in a statement.
She added, “As Chairwoman of Oversight, I'm focused on ensuring that the Postal Service has the infrastructure, funding and oversight needed to handle what is sure to be an unprecedented number of absentee ballots this fall.”
Maloney tried to schedule an Oversight Committee meeting this week with the new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, a major donor to the GOP and President Trump who took the helm of the beleaguered agency in May. DeJoy had conflict, but it’s been rescheduled for September 17th.
The city BOE has not responded to a request for comment.