HARLEM — Could it be another Bush v. Gore?
Thousands of votes for State Sen. Adriano Espaillat have yet to be counted in his bid to unseat longtime Rep. Charlie Rangel, according to Upper Manhattan City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who said that once they are counted, Espaillat will emerge the winner of Tuesday's contentious Congressional primary.
"I don’t want to jump to any conclusion yet, but I’m confident that after we get to the 100 percent and we get to the affidavit votes…the results of this election will be complete different than the ones that are given so far,” Rodriguez, a close Espaillat ally, told DNAinfo.com New York from the Board of Elections headquarters, where he had gathered with several other community leaders Thursday morning to observe the count.
While the Associated Press and other outlets had declared Rangel the winner late Tuesday night, his lead has tightened considerably as votes continued to be tallied. With 94 percent of precincts reporting, just 1,032 votes now separate the candidates — a margin of 2.6 percent.
But Espaillat supporters charged Thursday that there are even more votes now missing, with up to 74 of the district's 506 precincts still unaccounted for.
"It is unacceptable that more than 40 hours after the election took place on June 26, we don't have [an] outcome," Rodriguez said at a press conference in Harlem, where he and other supporters called for a federal monitor to oversee the count.
In addition to the remaining poll sites' ballots, Rodriguez and Democratic District Leader Mark Levine said Thursday that officials have also yet to count more than 3,000 affidavit ballots, which are submitted by voters who show up at the polls but whose names are missing from voter rolls. It is up to the Board of Elections to verify whether the votes are legitimate and then include them in the count.
Board spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez did not respond to repeated requests to verify the numbers, but said an "official recanvass" is now underway.
While Espaillat’s campaign has officially remained cautious about the implications, Rodriguez said he believes the uncounted ballots are more than enough to swing the tables in Espaillat's favor because the vast majority were cast in the heart of Espaillat’s base, in Upper Manhattan's 71st and 72nd assembly districts, spanning Inwood and Washington Heights.
"They are from our district. They are Adriano Espaillat's numbers," Rodriguez charged, predicting that, "Adriano Espaillat will be our congressman at the end of this process."
Espaillat's campaign has thus far refused to release election-night data documenting turnout at particular polls.
Rodriguez also noted the affidavit count is far higher than usual, and comes on the heels of complaints from voters in the neighborhood about problems casting ballots, thanks, in part, to the once-a-decade redistricting process, which shifted district lines and moved some polling places.
But some Espaillat backers alleged the problems were deliberate, and charged that Dominican voters were purposefully denied access to the polls by Rangel backers.
"When a person with a Dominican Spanish accent went to vote, they were saying, 'You're not on the list,' They were not finding them," said Ruben Dario Vargas, an Espaillat supporter, who worked as a poll watcher on election day overseeing sites.
Rangel’s campaign spokeswoman Ronnie Sykes did not immediately respond to a request for comment about those allegations, but said the campaign stands behind the Board of Elections.
"We are confident in the process and we want to make sure every vote is counted," she said, adding that, despite the narrowed margin, "We are confident that at the conclusion of this process we will be victorious."
According to city rules, a manual recount is required if the margin in a race ends up being less than 1/2 of 1 percent of the total votes cast.
Vazquez said officials will begin to count all paper ballots, including absentee and affidavit ballots on July 5.