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Federal judge rules some absentee ballots must be counted in uncalled New York congressional primary race

A federal judge in Manhattan has ordered some disputed ballots be counted in New York's...

Posted: Aug 4, 2020 6:10 AM
Updated: Aug 5, 2020 10:15 AM

A federal judge in Manhattan has ordered some disputed ballots be counted in New York's hotly contested 12th district Democratic primary race between Rep. Carolyn Maloney and challenger Suraj Patel that remains uncalled nearly six weeks later.

Judge Analisa Torres ruled late Monday that the New York State Board of Elections must 'direct all local boards of elections to count all otherwise valid absentee ballots cast in the June 23 Primary which were (1) received by June 24, 2020, without regard to whether such ballots are postmarked by June 23, 2020 and (2) received by June 25, 2020, so long as such ballots are not postmarked later than June 23, 2020.'

The popularity of mail-in ballots has increased during the coronavirus pandemic as voters are concerned about the safety of in-person voting and many states look to expand mail-in voting options ahead of the November election. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has routinely and incorrectly said mail-in ballots will result in fraud and pointed to the New York primary Monday, saying it has been 'a total disaster.'

Patel, along with other New York voters, filed a lawsuit against the New York State Board of Elections, asking that absentee ballots that had been invalidated be counted in the New York primary race. The plaintiffs argued that the absentee ballots they submitted should not have been invalidated.

In a statement, Patel said, as Americans, 'every one of us should be concerned about a process that invalidated over 1 in 5 mail-in ballots in New York's 12th Congressional District.'

On a video call the morning after the ruling was issued, Patel said he will continue to fight for more ballots to be counted in the race and does not plan to concede the race to Maloney any time soon.

'I have no reason to concede this race because we have thousands of ballots left to count. And I would hope that the chair of the Oversight Committee in the House of Representatives, who is going to be tasked with holding Trump to task in November on these very same issues, would stand on principle with the Constitution and set the right precedent to count the maximum number of votes from her district,' Patel said.

Earlier Monday, Trump commented on the race between Maloney and Patel and baselessly claimed there was fraudulent voting in New York's Democratic congressional primaries, where the counting of mail-in votes has been exceptionally slow.

'It's been a total disaster. They have -- they're six weeks into it now, they have no clue what's going on. And I mean I think I can say right here and now, I think you have to rerun that race because it's a mess. Nobody knows what's happening with the ballots and the lost ballots and the fraudulent ballots, I guess,' Trump said.

Patel responded to Trump's statements, saying his fight to get every vote counted is in direct response to Trump's false claims about mail-in ballots.

'When there's a threat to democracy sitting in the White House, we cannot serve him with a precedent to game this election, which is why it was our obligation as New Yorkers, as progressives, as Democrats, to fight to count votes,' Patel said.

As CNN has previously reported, there has been no evidence to date of fraudulent voting in the New York primaries, much less the kind of widespread voter fraud Trump has wrongly insisted is a common feature of mail-in voting. Rather, New York's counting has been slow because the state has had administrative problems -- ranging from insufficient staffing to outdated technology -- in trying to count a much larger than usual number of absentee votes.

Patel criticized New York state leadership, including the attorney general, who Patel sued to get the absentee ballots counted.

'I find it disconcerting that the state of New York, the Attorney General, spent taxpayer dollars fighting to not count votes and arguing it's not in the public interest,' Patel said. 'We cannot just call out voter suppression and disenfranchisement when it's red. It is equally important to call it out when it's also a Democratic state.'

Patel, Maloney and many others have expressed concern about how many absentee ballots may be rejected in the New York races. But rejections occur for all sorts of reasons other than fraud, such as a voter forgetting to include their signature or mailing their ballot too late.

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