Talk about a flip-flop!
A thin Election Night lead for an insurgent district leader candidate has turned into a narrow deficit as recounting began in a closely watched district leader race in Williamsburg.
When polls closed on Tuesday night, Lincoln Restler held a 19-vote lead over Warren Cohn, the son of the current district leader. But by the end of the day Wednesday, the count had Cohn leading by 41 votes out of nearly 8,000 cast.
“I know that my opponent has already declared victory,” Cohn wrote on his Facebook page. “However I currently hold the LEAD by 41 votes and counting.”
For six hours on Thursday, both candidates and their lawyers sat at a conference table in a Board of Elections warehouse in Sunset Park as election workers painstakingly counted emergency ballots, which poll workers gave to voters to fill out by hand if the new electronic voting machine scanners malfunctioned.
Cohn picked up 95 emergency ballots, while Restler added 35 ballots. Some emergency ballots were not counted because they were declared invalid.
The Restler-Cohn race has many implications, not the least of which is the fate of the county’s political boss, Assemblyman Vito Lopez. District leaders vote for the county leader; Restler has said he will vote out Lopez, while Cohn is considered a supporter of Lopez.
Beyond that, this close vote will no doubt become a test case for the new voting machines, which made their debut during Tuesday’s primary. The optical scanning machines are considered more accurate than New York’s old mechanical voting booths, but it remains unclear what a “recount” consists of with these newfangled devices.
Thousands of ballots that were properly scanned by the new machines had not been officially certified on Thursday.
The machine count will resume Friday, and a count of affidavit and absentee ballots should occur next Tuesday.
The closely monitored Democratic state committee race will have wide ranging implications regarding the future of the electronic machines and Brooklyn’s Democratic Party.
On Primary Day, machines were not set up properly by Board of Elections workers in many places, forcing polling sites to open nearly three hours late, leading to widespread criticism from public officials.
In several Williamsburg polling sites, Cohn’s campaign noted the machines overheated while Restler’s campaign pointed to poll sites opening late and voting irregularities among emergency ballots stored with the Board of Elections.