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GOP stifling the votes in Padavan race: Dems

The seemingly unending battle for the 11th Senate District marched on this week, with Democrats accusing Republicans of trying not to count every vote in the race between state Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) and his challenger, City Councilman James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows).

For their part, the Republicans contend Democrats are attempting to count ballots already discredited by bipartisan city Elections Board officials.

“These are votes that were invalidated by the Board of Elections,” said Padavan, who now leads Gennaro by a margin of about 600 votes. “They go over ballots provided by affidavit, and they determine whether someone is really registered or if there are other issues that would relate to them being able to vote in the area they voted.

He added: “That process was undertaken by the Board of Elections, and there was no controversy about that until now. Now they’re saying they want to go back and review those ballots that have been invalidated, something which has never been done.”

There are currently 2,000 challenged ballots that Democrats said need to be reviewed by the court. A State Supreme Court judge was expected to make a ruling this week as to whether the vote count could continue.

“Our basic message throughout this entire process is every legitimate vote should be counted,” said Austin Shafran, a spokesman for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. “Republicans have appealed to have the balloting frozen. They don’t want those 2,000 ballots to be reviewed. I don’t want to live in a city, state, borough or country where everyone’s vote is not counted.”

A group of about 20 residents and Democratic officials rallied outside Padavan’s Bellerose office Monday. Tom Cooke, who lives on the border of Bayside and Flushing said “Republicans are challenging votes that expand our democracy.”

In recent weeks, Democrats have claimed Republicans challenged votes from minority and younger voters, a claim Padavan has called “ludicrous.” Last week, about a dozen students from St. John’s University appeared in Queens Supreme Court after being subpoenaed to verify their residences. Republican lawyers were challenging the students’ votes, but a judge dismissed the cases.

Queens Republican officials have called on Democrats to stop what they say is merely buying time before Padavan’s re−election can be certified.

“From the very beginning of this count, we have maintained that every legally cast ballot should be counted, and despite the baseless and erroneous claims made by the Queens Democratic Party and their political consultants, absolutely no voter disenfranchisement has occurred,” Queens GOP Chairman Phil Ragusa said in a statement last week.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at agustafson@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.

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