New York’s Congressional race in District 13 may be over, but the aftermath is not.
Two of the people who most closely watched the heated contest between U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel and State Sen. Adriano Espaillat said in a TV talk show Monday night that there were still questions surrounding the election, which was marred by reports of irregularities and accusations of voter suppression.
Espaillat — who was poised to become the first Dominican American member of Congress in a redrawn district with a bigger Latino vote — filed suit after he heard complaints from voters that there were language barrier issues and many missing names from voter rolls. He withdrew the lawsuit two days before he announced he will seek re-election to the State Senate and a few days after he saw Rangel’s lead grew to about 1,000 votes.
But Latino Justice/PRLDF is taking up the cause where the Senator left off and President and General Counsel Juan Cartagena told Errol Louis, host of NY1’s Inside City Hall, that they have demanded an investigation in the lack of bilingual resources applied to the polling places and other procedural missteps before and during the June 26 primary.
“It’s the first election after redistricting. You would think there would be a premium on bilingual capacity, in particular in an area where you know you need it,” Cartagena said, referring to the new lines drawn that brought in the Bronx and Washington Heights and made the electorate more Hispanic.
He said answers to simple questions like “Am I in the right line?” and instructions about filling out affidavit votes could not be communicated in Spanish at certain polls.
“Remember, these lines were created by a court order… it’s very confusing for your typical voter,” Cartagena said. “They may not know they are sitting in the wrong line. That could very well disqualify their ballot.”
New York Daily News Columnist Juan Gonzalez, arguably the most authoritative voice on the race, said that Espaillat’s camp told Louis that only 20 percent of the poll workers recommended by the campaign were assigned by the New York City Board of Elections, which has come under fire for the way it handled the process.
He also hinted at an upcoming story about hundreds of valid votes that were not counted, but said that may be an issue with equipment and not process.
Still, the issue of bilingual assistance is important because, Gonzalez said, that communication — or lack thereof — could have impacted the close to 2,500 affidavit votes.
“This Congressional district had, by far, more affidavit votes, people who went to the polls and their names were not found in the polls, than any other distsrict… Why? Why did so many people in this district not find their names in the book and were forced to vote affidavit?
“These questions still have to be answered,” Gonzalez said. “Why was this district somehow abnormal compared to other districts?”
Cartagena, whose group was involved in creating “only the second minority district in the city,” said part of the problem is the structure of the BOE. “It is still done the way it was done in the 1950s and 60s,” he told the show’s host.
“There were 60-some odd reports of bad decisions that might have affected voting.”