Rangel rival plans new ballot challenge

Charlie Rangel after winning re-election in New York

Charlie Rangel after winning re-election in New York City. (June 26, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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A week after the June 26 primary voting, the outcome of veteran Rep. Charles Rangel's bid for re-election remains in doubt as his primary rival announced plans Monday for a new challenge to the counting of the ballots.

Rangel is clinging to an 802-vote lead over state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, with more than 2,200 paper ballots to be counted starting Thursday.

Lawyers for Espaillat told a Manhattan state judge that they will be filing a new lawsuit this week under a provision that could give the court broad power to oversee the count.

"It's a procedural move to make sure we preserve all of our legal options," Espaillat spokesman Ibrahim Khan told reporters. "What we're concerned about is that we want to count every single vote in an open and transparent manner."

Longtime Harlem congressman Rangel, 82, facing his toughest re-election battle in four decades in a reapportioned district that is now majority Latino, appeared to have won last Tuesday.

He declared victory and Espaillat conceded when unofficial results showed the incumbent leading 45 to 39 percent.

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That initial tally, however, did not include results from more than 70 of 506 precincts in the district, which straddles upper Manhattan and western parts of the Bronx.

A city Board of Elections spokeswoman said the mix up occurred because of errors in data entry on election night.

Over the weekend, when missing precincts were included, Rangel's margin over Espaillat dropped below 2 percentage points. The remaining paper ballots, which the board will begin to count by hand on Thursday, include absentee votes and votes from individuals whose residency was validated after Election Day.

The challenger would need to rack up a better than 2-1 margin over Rangel on the paper ballot count to erase his current deficit of 802 votes.

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