City votes to invalidate 1,700 ballots in Gennaro race

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The city Board of Elections voted Tuesday to support its previous decision that declared invalid 1,700 paper ballots in the race between state Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) and City Councilman James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows).

The action brings the battle for the 11th Senate District back to the State Supreme Court Jan. 6, when Judge Kevin Kerrigan will again rule on whether the Board of Elections must count the remaining 1,700 ballots that Republicans have labeled invalid but which Democrats say need to be counted.

“Last week’s Appellate Court ruling, a ruling that was lauded by the Democrats, made clear that it was up to the board to take final action with regard to these invalid ballots,” Joseph Conway, a spokesman for the New York State Senate Republican Campaign Committee, wrote in an e−mail Tuesday. “Now that the board has done so, it’s clear that this election is over and Sen. Frank Padavan must be seated prior to the legislative session beginning in January.”

The Appellate Division Second Judicial Department, which is part of the Supreme Court, ruled Christmas Eve that the city Elections Board must make a decision on the validity of the remaining ballots.

Republicans had asked for the 1,700 remaining votes to be discarded and for Padavan to be declared the winner.

Kerrigan had ruled Dec. 10 that the remaining paper ballots be counted, but Republicans went to the appellate court to fight the decision.

Following the Elections Board count of more than 8,000 paper ballots, Padavan leads Gennaro by approximately 580 votes.

After the paper ballots were counted, Elections Board officials said in November the 1,700 remaining ballots were invalid and should not be counted. Republican laywers backed that decision and called on Gennaro to concede defeat.

Democrats, however, contended Republicans did not want the votes counted because there are ballots from minority, disabled and younger voters, who often vote Democratic.

“There is no question that Frank Padavan and the Republicans are trying to keep legitimate votes from being counted and that their courtroom antics would make Katherine Harris proud,” Mike Barfield, a Gennaro campaign spokesman, said in a statement, referring to the Republican operative in Florida during the 2000 presidential race who helped delivery victory to President George W. Bush. “Instead of rubber−stamping the mistakes of its staff, the Board of Elections owed the people of Queens an honest review of legitimately cast ballots.”

Whatever the outcome is next week in court, both sides have said they would appeal a decision against them, making it likely Padavan’s seat will remain vacant when legislators reconvene in Albany Jan. 7.

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

Updated 6:33 pm, October 10, 2011
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