The Queens DA recount by the numbers

New York City voting machines.
New York City voting machines.
Jeff Coltin
New York City voting machines.

The Queens DA recount by the numbers

Just 16 votes separate Katz and Cabán – and that’s just one of the remarkable numbers.
July 15, 2019

It’s the final countdown! The recount has begun in the Democratic primary for Queens district attorney, in New York’s own version of Bush v. Gore. But instead of hanging chads, dozens of workers for the New York City Board of Elections are analyzing pen marks on ballots, determining which candidate got the vote. 

The main contenders are Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, an establishment Democrat who seemed like an early favorite in the race, and public defender Tiffany Cabán, a left-wing insurgent who declared victory on the night of the election, three weeks ago. But after all the valid votes were counted the first time, Katz led Cabán by just 16 votes. Because of possible errors and borderline cases, that number – and the result – will likely be different following the recount. Here are some of the other numbers that go into determining the race.

90,568 – That’s the number of apparently valid votes cast in the Tuesday, June 25 Democratic primary, according to the BOE. The vast majority, 86,541, were normal, in-person, Election Day votes. There were also 3,545 absentee ballots for voters who requested one ahead of time, knowing they could not make it to the polls. And there were about 2,800 affidavit ballots, the most contentious kind, voters who weren’t on the rolls, for one reason or another. Of those, 482 were initially deemed valid, but that number may change in the recount.

16 – That’s how many votes separated the top two contenders, Katz and Cabán, after the initial count, with Katz in the lead. Cabán had an apparent 1,090 vote lead on election night, which some observers deemed insurmountable. But Katz far outperformed Cabán and the other five candidates in the race in the absentee and affidavit ballots, and took an apparent lead.

12 – That’s the percentage of eligible voters that participated in this primary. Queens, with a population of approximately 2.4 million, has more than 766,000 active, registered Democratic voters. But just under 12% of them cast a vote for district attorney. Voters cast ballots from 1,313 election districts. It may be hard to see trends within districts that small, but the difference in voters’ preferences by geography is clear when the election is broken down into Queens’ 18 Assembly districts. 

165 – That’s how many lawyers have volunteered to watch the recount as part of Cabán’s team, the campaign told The City. Cabán’s campaign has stood out for its supporters’ enthusiasm and that’s clearly continued into the recount process. Supporters of both Cabán and Katz each held press conferences in recent days to show support and predict their candidate will win.

July 25 – Aug. 17 – When will get an official winner? Probably sometime between those two dates. July 25 would be after 10 days of counting, which is “at least” what one BOE lawyer predicted. Fifteen days of counting would take us to July 31, which was reportedly another estimate from a BOE spokesperson. A 2012 state Senate recount in Brooklyn took 10 days to determine. There are three times as many ballots in this district attorney election, which suggests we may not get an answer for 30 days, until Aug. 17. 

We’ll get a better estimate after the first day of counting is done on Monday and we get a sense of the pace. BOE workers are counting at an office in Middle Village Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with a one-hour lunch break. They’ll also come in to count on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Jeff Coltin
is a staff reporter at City & State. He covers New York City Hall.
20191020