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Saturday, December 11, 2021

Dead B’klyn residents ‘vote’ in tight City Council race

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Mail-in ballots were submitted to the city Board of Elections in the name of at least two long-dead Democratic voters in southern Brooklyn — where a tight race is still going on, The Post has learned.

The legitimacy of absentee ballots has become an issue in the close City Council race in the area’s 43rd District, where Republican Brian Fox leads Democratic incumbent Justin Brannan by 255 votes, with at least 1,622 such ballots yet to be counted.

Fox’s shocking lead over Brannan — who has been campaigning to become the next powerful council speaker — appears to be part of the Republican election wave that swept out Democrats in parts of the region and nation.

The district includes the neighborhoods of Bay Ridge, Bath Beach, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst.

Photo of Republican Brian Fox.
Fox leads Brannan 12,145 votes to 11,890 votes in the unofficial machine count.
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Board of Elections records show that someone requested a ballot in the name of Francesca Patinella — a Democrat born in 1926 and who died March 24, 2010 — in September for November’s general election.

The city elections agency then wrote on its Absentee Ballot Tracker web portal Sept. 28, addressing the dead woman, “We have your ballot. Your valid absentee ballot was received at the BOE.”

Another mail-in ballot was submitted in the name of Yvonne Absey, who died March 2, 2012. Absey, who also was born in 1926, is recorded as requesting an absentee ballot in September, according to BOE records.

“We have received your ballot,” the BOE responded in Absey’s case Oct. 4.

A day later, the BOE declared that the Absey ballot was “invalid” because the voter was “deceased.”

Democratic candidate Justin Brannan.
With many mail-in ballots still waiting to be counted, Brannan is still confident that he will sneak in a win.
Getty Images / Scott Heins

It wasn’t immediately clear if Patinella’s was declared invalid at some point.

The elections-board rep had no immediate comment on the ballots received in the name of dead voters.

The Fox campaign claimed that 11 absentee ballots were requested in the name of dead “voters,” including Patinella and Absey.

Fox said the fact that his campaign discovered the issue makes him suspicious that mail-ballot fraud could tilt the election toward Brannan.

“Needless to say, I remain curious why Justin Brannan remains so confident [of a win]. He seems to know what’s in sealed ballot envelopes, and in light of our discovery of fraud, I ask him to return from Puerto Rico and join me in looking at these ballots with a fine-toothed comb,” said Fox, referring to the councilman’s trip to the Somos conference in San Juan last week.

“Deceased people voting is the stuff of Tammany Hall, and we deserve better than that,” Fox said. “I’m confident that, when all the legal ballots are counted — emphasis on ‘legal’ — I’ll prevail in this race.”

But Brannan said Fox is just preparing excuses for an expected loss when all the mail-in ballots are counted.

Image of voter inside of a polling center.
The deceased Absey, who also was born in 1926, is recorded as requesting an absentee ballot in September, according to BOE records.
AP / Seth Wenig

“I have no doubt [Fox] will say we stole the election once the absentees are counted and we are declared the winner,” Brannan said.

Brannan’s camp noted that many elderly voters are on a permanent absentee-ballot list and automatically are sent ballots. Because of a lag, they may be sent an absentee ballot after they died. Such unreturned ballots aren’t counted as votes.

Fox leads Brannan 12,145 votes to 11,890 votes in the unofficial machine count.

Thus far, 1,622 valid absentee ballots have been returned, according to the BOE. Of those, 1,245 were returned by registered Democrats, 224 by Republicans, 14 by Conservatives, four by Working Families Party members and 139 by non-affiliated voters and or members of other parties.

A BOE rep said the counting of absentee ballots in the Brannon-Fox race will begin Monday.

The high percentage of Democratic mail-in ballots gives Brannan hope that he could squeak out a victory.

But one Brooklyn political source cautioned that some Democrats in more conservative southern Brooklyn cross party lines.

Suffolk County prosecutors in October 2020 charged a man with voter fraud for requesting absentee ballots in the name of his dead mother.

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