On Tuesday, the City’s Board of Elections (BOE) certified the results of the September 12 Democratic Party primary race for the City Council seat representing the First District, which covers Lower Manhattan. The final result is the same as the provisional tally, in that incumbent Margaret Chin has been deemed the winner by a few hundred votes. The final totals for each major candidate (out of 11,719 votes cast) were 5,363 votes for Ms. Chin; 5,141 for Christopher Marte, her most prominent challenger; 734 votes for Aaron Foldenauer (who plans to continue his campaign under the banner of the Liberal Party); and 459 votes for Dashia Imperiale. This amounts to a margin of victory of 222 votes for Ms. Chin, or slightly less than two percent of all votes cast.
In the two weeks following the preliminary results published on election night, BOE focused on counting absentee, military, and affidavit ballots. In this continued tabulation, the total number of votes cast jumped from 11,404 to 11,719, or about three percent. This total does not include 477 “unrecorded” ballots, which result from any of several kinds of irregularities. Many of these arise from voters incorrectly marking the ballot form — for example, by circling a candidate’s name, rather than filling in the oval next to that name, or filling in ovals beside the names of multiple candidates. A second tranche of “unrecorded” ballots are votes cast correctly, but by people who are not eligible to vote, such as those who reside at addresses outside the First Council district, or those who are not registered as Democrats. The 11,719 total also excludes six “unattributable” ballots, which occur when a write-in vote is so illegible that BOE examiners cannot determine whom the voter intended to support.
The further counting of votes that concluded on Tuesday began on September 18, which allowed one week for absentee and military ballots to arrive. During this process, Mr. Marte picked up an additional 121 votes (jumping from 5,020 to 5,141), while Ms. Chin gained 143 new votes (boosting her total from 5,220 to 5,363).
As the gap between Ms. Chin and Mr. Marte widened, the challenger’s hopes for an upset faded in two respects. First, the final tally did not change the provisional result, in which Ms. Chin appeared to have been reelected. Second, the growing margin of victory for Ms. Chin pushed further out of reach Mr. Marte’s other chance, which was to narrow Ms. Chin’s margin to within the 0.5 percent threshold that legally triggers automatic an “hand” recount under New York City election law. This might have been significant, because such manual recounts are overseen by a judge, who usually rules on the apparent “intent” of each vote. In such a case, some portion of the hundreds of “unrecorded” ballots might have been attributed to one candidate or the other, because a judge would likely discern a voter’s aim from markings such as a circle around a candidate’s name, even when voting machines do not. In this scenario, the conversion of “unrecorded” ballots into actual votes might have had the effect of swelling Ms. Chin’s margin of victory, or of turning Mr. Marte’s near-miss into a razor-thin success. In the end, however, the impact of such a hypothetical recount is unknowable.
Mr. Marte appeared at the Tuesday meeting of Community Board 1 (CB1), a few hours after BOE made the result official. He said, “I was a candidate for City Council this past September. I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ to everyone here. I had coffee with a lot of you. I talked to many of you about the issues in Lower Manhattan. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my platform and what I wanted to do for this community. I feel so humbled for all the support that I’ve been able to get. And I’m not going to go away. I’ll still be in the neighborhood. So feel free contact me. All my info is on my website, and I’ll see you around.”
When Mr. Marte had concluded his remarks, CB1 member Bob Townley said, “I don’t want to say who I supported or who I didn’t, but I do want to say that the tone of your campaign was very civil and I think you should be commended for that. It was really a pleasure to see this tone. I know it’s politics, but you did a great job.” At this, the room broke into applause.
Ms. Chin said of her victory, “I am proud of my campaign, which remained focused on my record of creating and preserving affordable housing, ensuring opportunities for our young people, and funding our schools and greenspaces. Our vision for a more affordable and equitable Lower Manhattan remains triumphant. As a result of the support of everyday people, we will have affordable and accessible housing for our seniors, more opportunities for our young people, and a strong advocate for women, people of color and immigrants in the City Council. I thank all of my supporters for being with me every step of the way. I look forward to continuing our work in the community I was raised in, worked in, and which I love with all my heart.”
She continued, “today our district is facing real problems that include a lack of affordable housing options, aggressive and greedy development, and looming funding cuts from Donald Trump. Our community must unite if we are to prevail. Together, we will fight for a better, brighter future for our community.”
Ms. Chin will now go on to vie with one or more opponents in the November general election. Her Republican rival will be Bryan Jung, who previously ran (unsuccessfully) as the G.O.P. nominee for State Assembly seat once occupied by former Speaker Sheldon Silver and now held by Yuh-Line Niou. As noted above, one of Ms. Chin’s erstwhile opponents in the now-decided Democratic primary, Aaron Foldenauer, will also face off against her under the banner of the Liberal Party.
Although the November election will technically decide who represents Lower Manhattan in the City Council for the next four years, the heavily “blue” landscape of Lower Manhattan usually makes the nomination of the Democratic party tantamount to winning the wider contest, and most often relegates the actual election to the status of a formality.