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The top three Democratic mayoral contenders are demanding a manual recount of the June 22 primary election if the final vote count has narrow enough margins — a process that would a first for the city in modern history.
“It is without precedent in a New York City mayoral race or any citywide office,” said election lawyer Stanley Schlein, who represents former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia in her lawsuit against the Board of Elections.
Garcia, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and lawyer Maya Wiley have all filed similar petitions in court to protect their rights to challenge the election results.
A final vote count is expected on July 12. Adams currently leads Garcia by 14,755 votes with Wiley just 347 votes behind the former Sanitation Commissioner.
The BOE has yet to tabulate some 125,000 absentee ballots and run all the votes through the city’s new ranked-choice system.
Under state law a manual recount is triggered if the difference between candidate figures is under .5 percent of the total votes cast or about 4,500 votes with 935,000 ballots cast in the primary.
“We’re talking about possibly an even smaller margin than half of one percent,” said attorney Daniel Bright, who represents Wiley.
“That could change who becomes mayor,” he said.
In the event of a hand re-canvass, BOE officials would pour over individual ballots where voters made irregular markings like circling a candidate’s name instead of filling in the bubble. A judge would oversee the laborious process.
Veteran election lawyer Jerry Goldfeder, who is not involved in any of the campaigns, said it’s doubtful the final vote will include the margin of difference of under 4,500 votes between candidates.
“The odds of that happening are very low,” Goldfeder said.
Goldfeder guessed it would take “weeks and weeks” to do a manual recount. Schlein and Bright agreed it would take weeks, not months.
Ciampoli estimated the recount would cost taxpayers “millions of dollars.”
But John Ciampoli, another longtime election lawyer not associated with the Democratic contenders, said the timeline could run through the end of September — close to the early November general election.
He added that the process would be complicated by the city’s first ever ranked-choice vote, where New Yorkers listed their top five choices for mayor and other city offices.
“Half a percent is in the law now, but how do you make a determination of what’s one half a percent when you have ranked-choice voting? Talk about a square peg being put into a round hole,” Ciampoli said.
“It wasn’t written anticipating ranked-choice voting. Is it a half a percent between any two candidates? Is it a half a percent after the first round of counting, or the second counting? Between the first and second candidates?” he mused.
A spokeswoman for the BOE did not immediately return a message about the possibility of a hand recount.
While there hasn’t been a manual recount in a local mayoral race in recent times, there was a hand re-canvass in a 1917 Republican primary.
There was also hand recount in the 2019 Queens district attorney race that took about three weeks for 100,00 votes.
Additional reporting by Carl Campanile and Bernadette Hogan
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