Rangel rival challenging primary results

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., left, votes in the Democratic primary, Tuesday, June 26, 2012 in New York. Rangel faces State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who would be the first Dominican-American in Congress if he wins the primary and the November general election. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., left, votes in the Democratic primary, Tuesday, June 26, 2012 in New York.
(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Updated: 12:08 p.m. ET

(CBS News) After conceding his primary race to 21-term incumbent Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., last week, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat is back in the game, challenging Rangel's lead and leveling charges of voter suppression.

Rangel, a longtime if controversial presence in New York politics, appeared to lead by 6 points on primary night June 26, causing Espaillat to concede the race. But subsequent calculations showed Rangel's lead greatly diminished, and official counts now show Rangel clinging to an 802 vote lead, with about 2,000 absentee or other ballots yet to be counted. 

Valerie Vazquez, a spokesperson with the New York City board of elections, said no updated vote counts would be available until Thursday, when state law dictates that absentee and affidavit ballots be opened.

Espaillat, however, is in vigilant pursuit of an accurate count - and his campaign is filing a complaint on Tuesday in the state Supreme Court as part of that effort.

"We cannot have a Florida-type situation in New York state," Espaillat said Monday in a news conference. "We may not be looking at people looking at the pregnant dimples, but certainly the Board of Elections has not conclusively given us a result for this election. In fact, they have engaged in a murky process with a lack of transparency."

Ibrahim Kahn, a campaign spokesperson for Espaillat, said he had "very, very strong concerns about the way this election was conducted on election night."

"There have been all sorts of issues with the Board of Elections," Kahn said, arguing that the board had released vote counts while the votes for 70 congressional districts remained uncounted. "There's more votes outstanding than separate the top candidates, so it's a real concern."

The Espaillat campaign has also pointed to what they say are incidences of voter suppression across the city, including cases wherein bilingual poll workers were pulled out of Spanish-speaking neighborhoods. "Part of going to court is being able to investigate more."

Vazquez, the board of elections spokesperson, defended the electoral process and argued that the state was merely following procedure with regard to the initial vote count.

"The Board has acted in accordance with the law and its duly adopted procedures throughout this process. This was acknowledged by counsel to Senator Espaillat who stated in open court that the Board's procedures are more than sufficient to ensure the security for ballots," Vazquez said in an e-mailed statement to CBS News. "We believe that the withdrawal of the proceedings yesterday by counsel for Senator Espaillat indicates the baseless nature of the unsupported allegations contained in the papers that were filed in court. We will continue to conduct our recanvass process in a transparent manner and the Commissioners of the Board of Elections will certify this election when each and every vote that was cast on June 26, 2012 is counted."

According to New York electoral procedure, the official vote count does not begin until the day following an election. The New York Police Department is responsible for releasing initial, unofficial vote counts to the press based on information provided by poll workers. In last Tuesday night's unofficial count, according to the board of elections, the NYPD listed zero tallies in some districts where that information had been provided.

Rangel, in the meantime, is attempting to raise money to fight for his seat. According to the Wall Street Journal, he is soliciting donations from supporters in an effort to pay for legal efforts to defend his claim on the nomination.

"I don't know what will transpire in the coming days, but one thing is clear: I need your help to prepare myself for another battle--whether it's a legal battle with the Board of Elections or with my opponent," the email said, according to the WSJ.

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