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Queen's DA Race Explained

The two candidates are Melinda Katz and Tiffany Cabán

The two candidates are Melinda Katz and Tiffany Cabán


On Election Night, Tiffany Cabán appeared to have an insurmountable lead of about 1,100 votes over her closest rival, Borough President Melinda Katz, in the Queens District Attorney race. Now, Katz leads by a mere sixteen votes after absentee ballots were counted, along with some of the affidavit ballots.


Affidavit ballots are used when a voter is not included on the voter rolls at a polling location. The Board of Elections is meant to determine later whether the vote should count or not. Common reasons why a voter may not be on the rolls include that they recently changed addresses, registered to vote recently, or in the case of primaries, registered or changed their party affiliation close to the deadline.


Last week, the New York City Board of Elections counted the absentee ballots and some of the affidavit ballots. They disqualified over 2,000 of the roughly 2,800 ballots cast. In total, 85,447 voters turned out for the Queens DA primary, meaning that only about 11% of the almost 800,000 registered Democrats in the borough came out to vote for their next District Attorney.


On Tuesday, lawyers for both Cabán and Katz will be in Queens Supreme Court to argue why some disqualified affidavit ballots should or should not be included in the final vote total. Affidavit ballots are more likely to be cast by the types of voters who supported Cabán in the primary, namely young voters who move frequently or have changed their party registration to vote in the primary.


Additionally, BOE policy mandates a manual recount if a race is closer than half a percent. This race is currently divided by about two hundredths of a percent. This could yield further changes to the candidates’ vote totals. With only sixteen votes separating the top two candidates, any change could have a dramatic impact on the race.


Finally, affidavit ballots are sealed until they are determined to be qualified, so no one knows for sure who would benefit from these ballots being counted, despite some recent claims to the contrary.


In most elections, absentee and affidavit ballots are such a small fraction of the vote total that it is impossible for them to be determinative of the final outcome. However, in a race such as this one, the system is tested.