July 2 (Bloomberg) -- The vote margin in the Democratic primary between U.S. Representative Charles Rangel of New York and his top challenger, state Senator Adriano Espaillat, has narrowed to 2 percentage points.
Rangel has 802 more votes than Espaillat out of 40,810 cast by machine, with 2,152 absentee and affidavit ballots yet to be counted as of 3 p.m. today, said Valerie Vazquez, spokeswoman for the Board of Elections. Those paper ballots will be tallied July 5, Vazquez said. Absentee ballots continue to arrive by mail, and several affidavits, which stem from registration disputes at poll sites, may be invalidated, she said.
On Election Night last week, Rangel declared victory and Espaillat conceded defeat after results showed the incumbent ahead by 45.2 percent to 39.8 percent with 84 percent of polling places unofficially counted. The Associated Press, which reports the vote count, called the race for Rangel.
By June 30, with 40,810 votes counted on all machines, Rangel’s lead had narrowed to 44 percent to 42 percent, according to Vazquez.
A hearing today in Manhattan requested by Espaillat asking state Supreme Court Justice Donna Mills to ensure secure ballot-counting procedures was adjourned. Attorneys for the candidate told the judge they were satisfied that the ballots would be kept in a locked room and that the count would be observed by representatives of all parties. Espaillat’s lawyers told Mills they would file another petition citing other election-law provisions.
Rangel, 82, has represented New York City’s Harlem neighborhood in the House for more than 41 years and once served as chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. Democrats make up almost 97 percent of the district in northern Manhattan and the Bronx, so winning the primary almost ensures victory in the November general election.
“With each new tally, Senator Espaillat’s vote total increases,” Ibrahim Khan, a campaign spokesman, said in a June 30 e-mail. “As paper ballots begin to be counted and this dead-heat race continues, we are grateful to all of our supporters and will continue to push for full transparency.”
Espaillat, 57, seeks to become the first Dominican-born member of U.S. Congress. He campaigned saying Rangel’s 2010 House censure for ethics violations had reduced the congressman’s effectiveness and made him a “poster child for dysfunction in Washington.”
Martin Connor, Espaillat’s attorney and a former state senator, said the candidate wants the election board to explain how, in its unofficial returns, more than 70 polling places showed no ballots cast.
“It’s rather curious that we had all these election districts reporting zeroes,” Connor said in an interview.
Vazquez said Election Night totals missed some districts because police precincts, which collect the tallies from polling places and relay them to the board, reported some in error. The mistakes have been corrected and all machine votes have been counted, she said.
In the event the margin shrinks to within 0.5 percentage point, the law requires a machine-by-machine recount of the election, which would take weeks, she said.
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