What at one point looked like a big primary night victory for Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) has gradually become a close race — enough so that Rangel’s opponent is now filing for a possible do-over election. State Sen. Adriano Espaillat this week filed with the state Supreme Court seeking either a recount or a highly unusual redo of his June 26 primary with Rangel. Espaillat has lodged accusations of voter suppression and has pointed to faulty administration and vote-counting by New York City elections officials. The race appeared over and done last Tuesday night, with Rangel holding a double-digit lead in early returns. He delivered a victory speech, and Espaillat conceded. As the night wore on, though, Espaillat closed the gap significantly, and a continuing manual counting of the ballots now has Rangel up just 802 votes out of nearly 40,000 cast. A couple thousand absentee ballots still have yet to be counted.
At this point, Espaillat is fighting what is very much an uphill battle, and it’s unlikely he’ll overtake the 42-year incumbent, who has suffered from ethics charges and a redistricting process that made his district majority-Hispanic (Espaillat is Dominican-American). But emerging questions about the vote-counting process are keeping the state senator in the game.
Barring the uncovering of some previously uncounted or miscounted votes, Espaillat is not going to creep much closer than the 2 percent margin he currently trails by. While 800 votes doesn’t sound like much, it’s a lot in a low-turnout primary, and in basically every state, it’s well outside the margin under which a candidate can even ask for a recount, much less a re-vote. A re-vote is much rarer and would require two things, according to a Wall Street Journal report: 1) That there is significant evidence of some kind of irregularity, and 2) That the irregularity could be enough to swing the result of the election.