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Despite primary snafu, election still set for Nov. 6

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The city Board of Elections rejected a proposal Tuesday to postpone the Nov. 6 general election by two weeks as it began the count to determine the official winner of the disputed Democratic mayoral primary.

Over the weekend the Board of Elections discovered that the Associated Press counted 40,000 votes twice in the match between Public Advocate Mark Green, who apparently defeated Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer in last Thursday’s runoff based on preliminary results compiled by the Associated Press.

After learning about the voting discrepancy, Ferrer withdrew his concession to Green amid a formal complaint by his staff to the Democratic National Committee that Green had resorted to racist ads to scare voters away from the Bronx candidate.

The Board of Elections deadlocked on a proposal to push back the Nov. 6 general election to Nov. 20 to gain more time since the original Sept. 11 primary was halted because of the attack on the World Trade Center and rescheduled Sept. 25. A runoff election then was required to choose the Democratic nominees for mayor and public advocate since none of the candidates received the necessary 40 percent of the vote.

“There was talk at the board’s meeting today and a motion was made to ask the Legislature to postpone the November election,” Naomi Bernstein, a spokeswoman for the Board of Elections, said Tuesday. “The vote was 5 to 5 so the motion didn’t pass. Nov. 6 is the election date.”

Bernstein said the mayoral election has yet to be certified because the board has not officially counted the votes. She said the board started counting the electronic ballots Tuesday and would begin to tackle the 50,000 affidavit ballots and 9,000 paper ballots Thursday and, hopefully, certify the election by Sunday.

The preliminary results published by the Associated Press last Thursday had Green winning 51.9 percent of the vote to Ferrer’s 48.9 percent by a margin of 29,806 votes in a larger-than-expected turnout. According to the AP, Green won 55 percent of the Queens vote vs. 45 percent for Ferrer.

“These results are not compiled by the Board of Elections and are not official,” said Joseph Gentili, deputy executive director of the Board of Elections in a statement. “The news service results of the Sept. 25, 2001 primary appeared to have consisted of 96 percent of the voting machine totals. Four percent of the voting machine totals and 100 percent of the paper ballots were not included.”

The preliminary Associated Press election results are unofficial and supplied by poll workers who called in the results to the news agency and to police officers, who then fed the totals to civilian employees who would enter the numbers into the Board of Elections’ computer system, he said.

“When I spoke to my supporters during the campaign and on Election Night, I clearly stated that I would support the Democratic Party nominee,” Ferrer said. “As of this moment, we don’t know who that nominee is.”

The Bronx borough president said he wants to wait until after the board certifies a winner and then will either support Green or continue on with his own election campaign. But, he said, in either instance he would sit with Green to discuss the “troubling nature of the campaign waged against” him.

Ferrer was concerned with new revelations about the vote count and the Board of Elections’ detection of a 40,000-vote error in the AP’s unofficial tally. There also were more than 55,000 paper ballots still not counted.

“I am now looking forward and not looking backward,” Green said of his campaign. “Should I prevail, I may start appointing deputy mayors within four weeks” in a move to help ease the transitional period.

Green said he understood the Ferrer camp’s disappointment and the Bronx borough president’s position, but remained confident he was the winner.

“I am perfectly content to wait until the board formally certifies the results,” Green said when asked about the delay. “I am not worried that the delay will hurt New York.”

Reporter Betsy Scheinbart contributed to this article.

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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