Lentol/Gallagher Election Turns into Disenfranchised Battle

Emily Gallagher (1)

In a tale of who is the least represented, incumbent Assemblymember Joe Lentol (D-Greenpoint, Williamsburg) and his challenger Emily Gallagher are locked in a battle over who more represents the disenfranchised vote.

And with 9,689 mail-in ballots set to counted today to determine the winner of the close 50th Assembly District race, both sides are alleging the ballots being returned from election districts where the majority of their supporters live are being tossed out for technicalities.

On one side there are election districts (ED) with longtime residents of the Greenpoint/Williamsburg community including Polich immigrants and Hassidic Jews who largely support Lentol, a 47-year incumbent. On the other side are the EDs of Gallagher, where many of the newer and white progressives live.

“It is a travesty that our elected officials remain silent as thousands of voters—through no fault of their own—are disenfranchised,” Gallagher told Gothamist. “We’ve always known about the inherent incumbent protection program here in New York, and the fact that it now includes such blatant voter suppression is a national disgrace.”

Gallagher has also already filed a lawsuit against Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Board of Elections alleging they disenfranchised thousands of voters over postmark problems on Absentee ballots.

Not to be undone, Lentol’s campaign responded that Lentol has been at the forefront of expanding the opportunity to vote throughout his career, and in particular this year as vote-by-mail expanded –including being the first legislator introducing a bill to mail ballots directly to all voters back in March.

“Because there is so much misinformation out there, it’s important to state some key facts ahead of the paper ballot count. Joe’s campaign wants to ensure every ballot is held to the same standard — including ensuring those that have been invalidated that should be valid are counted. While 72% of ballots have been validated in areas his opponent won, only 61% of absentee ballots have been validated in areas that Joe won,” said Lentol’s Campaign spokesperson Hayley Brundige.

“The idea that any consistent standard is helpful to our campaign is clearly ludicrous. Further, we want to ensure every single affidavit voter who is entitled to vote is able to have their vote cast. We look forward to every party embracing consistent standards that enfranchise voters regardless of who it helps — and expect that Joe will be the victor regardless of whichever consistent standard is used.”

If Lentol is correct that more voters in his EDs were invalidated percentage-wise than in Gallagher’s EDs, his campaign could mount a similar court challenge.

The complaints from both sides of voters being disenfranchised come as Lentol holds a 1,763 vote lead after primary Day out of 11,526 votes cast in person. But more than 17,000 absentee ballots were distributed in that race, and the city Board reports that 9,689 were returned.


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