Painstaking Vote Counting in District 1 City Council Race Drags On

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Board of Elections officials are still working to declare a winner in Tuesday’s District 1 City Council Election.

City Council member Margaret Chin has a 200 vote lead over Christopher Marte. The result in the Democratic Primary has not yet been certified because affidavit and absentee ballots must be taken into account. Voters are called on to fill out paper (affidavit) ballots when their names are missing from voter registration lists on hand at polling stations. Each affidavit needs to be verified. This is a process being overseen by the Board of Elections under the watchful eye of representatives from both campaigns. The BOE has finished a preliminary review to identify valid ballots. The actual counting will begin Monday, likely extending into Tuesday.

There are conflicting accounts on the numbers of ballots left to be counted. According to the Chin campaign, there are about 100 valid affidavits and 250 absentee ballots. The Marte campaign concurs on the number of absentee ballots but believes there are many more valid affidavits (perhaps as many as 600).

As a point of comparison, there were 436 absentee ballots in the 2013 Democratic primary and 249 affidavit ballots. In the past week, Marte has pointed to potential irregularities on election day (some polling stations were moved). A recount will occur if the margin between the candidates is less than .05 of 1%. Marte has said a legal challenge is a possibility if the Board of Elections certifies Chin as the victor.

NY1 filed a report yesterday on the District 1 campaign. In the story, Marte noted that he did very well in the area around the Elizabeth Street Garden, speculating that Chin’s support for building senior affordable housing there was the reason why. In the report, Chin said other factors came into play, including the controversy in the Two Bridges neighborhood over three proposed mega-towers. Chin has come under attack from opponents who say she didn’t make a strong stand early on against the projects, which are widely unpopular.

We have been taking a look at the election results in each polling station on the Lower East Side and Chinatown. Here’s what we found.

First off. voter participation was incredibly low. Out of nearly 69,000 registered Democrats in District 1 (which includes almost all of Lower Manhattan), just 11,404 cast ballots. As of today, Chin has 5220 votes to Marte’s 5020.

–In Two Bridges, Marte ran strong, edging out Chin 503-479.

–On Grand Street (east of Essex Street), Chin prevailed but Marte attracted a good deal of support. The tally was 742-582. Chin was endorsed by the Truman Democratic Club, which for decades delivered the Grand Street cooperatives to former Assemblyman Sheldon Silver and his allies. On Tuesday, the club suffered a major setback when district leader and county committee candidates put up by a new club, Grand Street Dems, prevailed.

–In Chinatown, Margaret Chin’s stronghold, she faced tough competition, as well. She defeated Marte 170-45 at the huge Confucius Plaza housing complex, but struggled elsewhere. Turnout was especially low in some Chinatown polling locations. At P.S. 126 on Catherine Street, for example, each candidate had just 40 votes.

As the NY1 report noted, Chin also faces a challenge from candidate Aaron Foldenauer, who pulled in 699 votes on election day. Foldenauer has filed complaints with the Board of Elections, alleging that voters in Chinatown were illegally registered, using P.O. boxes. Chin told reporter Zack Fink, “He is trying to intimidate the Chinese American vote and that is unacceptable.” Board of Elections’ reps said they’re focused right now on certifying Tuesday’s result, not on looking into allegations of fraud.