A Manhattan Avenue USPS collection box. (Image via Ben Weiss)

Two insurgent candidates in North Brooklyn’s Democratic primary are suing Governor Cuomo and the New York State Board of Elections over the invalidation of thousands of absentee ballots.

Emily Gallagher, candidate for the New York State Assembly, and Suraj Patel, candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, joined over a dozen voters to challenge the disenfranchisement of what could be one in five voters in the 12th Congressional District, which encompasses Greenpoint and much of Williamsburg, according to The Intercept.

“A 1-in-5 disenfranchisement rate is far too high for a developed democracy,” said Patel in a statement.

The issue, plaintiffs argue, stems from a conflict between executive orders issued by Governor Cuomo and a policy of the U.S. Postal Service. When Cuomo changed election law to extend the deadline to submit absentee ballots to June 23, the day of the primary, he also made sure every registered voter in New York received a prepaid envelope for his or her ballot. To be counted in the election, each ballot must be postmarked by June 23. However, the cash-strapped Postal Service usually does not postmark postage-paid envelopes, reported Gothamist.


The result is a further invalidation of voters’ absentee ballots, even after only a little more than half of all ballots sent out were returned in Gallagher and Patel’s districts. Voters returned only approximately 9,700 ballots out of 17,000 distributed in the 50th Assembly District, and returned 28,400 ballots after more than 52,000 were sent out in the 12th Congressional District.

“It is a travesty that our elected officials remain silent as thousands of voters—through no fault of their own—are disenfranchised,” Gallagher said in a statement.

Gallagher and Patel’s most recent onslaught against the city and state’s BOE follows a primary in which each candidate has a fighting chance to overtake incumbents. Gallagher trails Assemblyman Joseph Lentol by a little less than 1800 votes after the BOE tallied in-person votes, and Patel is just behind Representative Carolyn Maloney by only a few hundred.

While the city’s BOE began counting absentee ballots from Brooklyn on July 8, canvassers have yet to count ballots in the 50th Assembly District, more than three weeks after the election officially came to a close.

However, any resolution that satisfies candidates and voters alike won’t come any time soon.

“The date for the ballots to be eligible is in the law,” Cuomo said in a press conference Friday afternoon. “That is going to have to be resolved either by a court or by the Legislature passing a new law.”

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