Brigid Bergin is the City Hall reporter for WNYC. She covers city politics including the 2013 mayoral race and transition.
Flanked by supporters and draped in symbolism, Congressman Charles Rangel stood before the statue of his predecessor, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., in Harlem on Wednesday saying that Independence Day made him recall the historic struggle for voting rights, from the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, AL, through the struggles he’s facing today.
“I thought this would be an appropriate time to say thank God for this system and those people who work hard to make this system work,” said Rangel, who holds a slim 802 vote lead over his closest competitor, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, in the June 26primary race for the 13th Congressional district.
But how well that system works is up for debate among some of the candidates from the primary contest, as the Board of Elections in New York begins the process of counting some 2,000 absentee and affidavit ballots on Thursday. All candidates will have representatives present at the count.
At the same time lawyers for Espaillat will be in State Supreme Court in the Bronx. Earlier this week, they filed court papers in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan that challenged, among other things, how the Board of Elections was counting the ballots. But those papers were withdrawn and new ones have been filed alleging evidence of voter intimidation, fraud and failure to meet the needs of Spanish speaking voters.
As to why the campaign filed in a new venue, Espaillat’s attorney, Leo Glickman, said it was a matter of convenience for the potential witnesses.
“Now that we have pled voter suppression and intimidation on Election Day, there is a possibility of a trial where we will attempt to overturn the election,” Glickman said via email. “If there is such a trial, the Bronx Courthouse is a far more convenient venue than Lower Manhattan.”
Rangel said he had not seen any new court papers and refused to comment on any allegations.
“I can’t comment until the court looks at [it]. The last time they looked at stuff like this, what did they do? What did they do?” Rangel said pressing a reporter who replied they gave the papers back, which Rangel then repeated for emphasis.
“Alright, they gave it back to them,” said Rangel.