Flanked by a coterie of elected officials, Donovan Richards declared victory last night in a wide-open, eight-way Queens City Council special election. Seven miles south, Pesach Osina did the same exact thing.
With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Richards leads Mr. Osina by just 26 votes, easily making the 31st District race too close for observers to call. Vote counting ceased at midnight and will resume today, but at last glance, Mr. Richards had 2,513 votes to Mr. Osina’s 2,487. In addition to a potentially missing memory stick from a ballot scanner, absentee and paper ballots still need to be counted. A recount is also likely, but each candidate acted like the undisputed victors nevertheless.
Earlier this afternoon, “a group of irate Orthodox community leaders” held a conference call to protest poll site changes implemented in the Far Rockaway neighborhood of Queens. In the call, local Jewish leaders alleged their new voting location was designed to dampen turnout in their ideologically conservative community as it struggles to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation.
“We’re a group of people who really, really suffered tremendously,” Richard Altabe, a board member of the Far Rockaway Jewish Alliance, said. “Or voting rights are about to be taken away from us. It’s going to be difficult enough to get people to vote….Our ability to speak and have our voices heard is going to be squashed by circumstances. I’m really, really horrified.”