Rangel Race May Be Headed for Do-over, Thanks to Board of Elections ‘Incompetence’

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 26: Congressman Charles Rangel speaks after declaring himself the winner in the race for the Democratic primary challenge in New York's 15th congressional district on June 26, 2012 in New York City. After a more than four-decades-long congressional career, Rangel fought for the Democratic nomination in a newly re-drawn congressional district that is no longer dominated by African Americans. The 82-year-old Rangel was locked in a race Tuesday for the nomination in his Harlem-area district with New York state Sen. Adriano Espaillat. Espaillat, a 57-year-old Dominican-American, showed growing popularity in a district that now has more Latino-Americans than African-Americans. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Charlie Rangel, hoping he won’t end up with Al Gore’s post-election beard. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

For the past week, Representative Charlie Rangel’s lead over primary challenger Adriano Espaillat has continued to shrink, and today the State Senator spoke out about the situation for the first time, saying, “We cannot have a Florida type of situation in New York State.” We may not have hanging chads (thank God), but the election is turning into our very own Bush vs. Gore, with Espaillat taking his case to court and opening up the possibility of a recount, or even another election.

The 21-term congressman is currently ahead by only 802 votes, with 2,000 absentee and affidavit ballots still uncounted. At a press conference on Monday afternoon, Espaillat essentially took back his concession to Rangel, saying that he went to bed on election night thinking he’d lost by twenty points. Now Rangel’s lead is under 2 percent. According to the New York Times, Espaillat added:

I have received hundreds of complaints of voter suppression, and voters being turned away … We will go to court, and we will go to the final round. I am going to fight to ensure that every single vote is counted.

It’s now emerged that, in the initial count, the New York City Board of Elections recorded zeros in 79 of the thirteenth district’s 506 precincts. Many of those districts are in Dominican neighborhoods that leaned heavily toward Espaillat. The candidate said many of his family members found their names weren’t in the election books on Tuesday, and the advocacy group LatinoJustice PRLDEF said an unusually high number of bilingual poll workers were transferred to other precincts that day for no apparent reason. The reports led some to question whether there might have been some underhandedness on the part of the long-serving congressman.

DNA Info reports that, on Monday, a judge allowed Espaillat’s lawyers to withdraw a petition seeking court intervention in the count. His lawyers say that they intend to file a broader claim later this week that will allow them to call for a new election. Rangel’s campaign manager says that he remains confident that the congressmen will still come out on top, but just to be safe, Rangel sent out an e-mail to supporters asking them for money to help him fight any court cases that might spring up.

While the results are still unclear, there’s one point most parties are agreed on: The Board of Elections is ridiculously dysfunctional. The Times remarks that while its “incompetence” has been “well established” in previous election debacles, “it outdid itself in this primary.” Espaillat called the Board of Elections “broken” and said, “We should just shut it down and build a new system.” Predictably, Rangel’s campaign manager was less critical, but even he admitted, “it would be fair to everybody to have the results election night.” Despite publicly endorsing Rangel, Major Bloomberg couldn’t resist taking a shot at the Board of Elections, which he’s attacked in the past. “It’s about as corruptible a system as anybody could design,” said Bloomberg.

Rangel Race May Be Headed for Do-over