As State Senator Adriano Espaillat continues his legal challenge of his primary loss last week to incumbent Congressman Charles Rangel, the city Board Of Elections says it is not to blame for the disputed results.
Rangel reportedly had a 2,300-vote margin of victory on primary night, but that lead has since dwindled to just 802 votes. The Espaillat campaign says roughly 2,100 absentee and affidavit ballots still need to be counted.
Initially, 79 election districts reported a complete lack of votes in the Democratic primary.
Elections officials say the zero-vote tally was entered when police officers could not read the handwritten totals or election inspectors failed to add up the votes. The incomplete count was then shared with the media.
"There's a process that we have to follow in order to do the re-canvas and make sure that every vote is counted and that's what we are charged with," said Pamela Perkins of the Board of Elections. "We are not charged with explaining election night results, because they are not our results."
Espaillat also claims valid ballots are not being counted and some voting machines were broken.
These errors have made the BOE subject to criticism from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, good government groups and newspaper editorial boards, but the board's commissioner said the agency did its best.
"It's unfortunate, but I think that the campaigns are launching incredibly vicious attacks of the hardworking men and women of the Board Of Elections. They're based on absolutely nothing but a conspiracy theory," said BOE Commissioner J.C. Polanco. "The reality is that we have hardworking men and women at the Board Of Elections who work tirelessly to make sure that each one of these ballots gets counted."
Good government groups also question why the initial election results were so erroneous.
"Other states have managed to give unofficial results on election night that are darn close if not completely accurate to the end official tally because they use modern technology in a modern way. It's embarrassing that New York refuses to do that," said Susan Lerner of Common Cause New York.
The BOE is beginning its count of the remaining votes on Thursday.