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Nine Votes Appear to Decide 24th Legislative District

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

Absentee ballots from the primary await opening by Monroe County Board of Elections staff on June 30, 2021. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

Next time you’re tempted to think that your vote doesn’t matter so why bother to fill out the ballot or go to the polls, think about Rajesh Barnabas and Albert Blankley, candidates in the Democratic primary for the 24th District in the Monroe County Legislature.

On June 22 at the end of in-person voting, Barnabas led by 22 votes with more than 100 absentee ballots in the district, which covers parts of Brighton and southeast city neighborhoods.

On June 30, those absentee ballots were counted. Both Barnabas and Blankely were at the Monroe County Board of Elections Training Center to watch as bipartisan teams of elections staff opened the envelopes and unfolded the ballots before they were put into the tallying machines.

Albert Blankley watches a Board of Elections worker open absentee ballots for the 24th legislative district race. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

When they came out, Blankley had 31 more votes than Barnabas and won the primary by nine votes.

The result remains unofficial until certified by the state Board of Elections.

Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner Jackie Ortiz said the closeness of the race automatically triggers a recount. That may not be completed until the week of July 5.

“Every single vote counts in every election,” Blankley said.

Barnabas is on the Working Families Party line and will be on the ballot in November against Blankley. There is no Republican opponent.

“I want to commend Rajesh on a well-run campaign and a very creative campaign that spoke to many, many voters in the 24th,” Blankley said.

Both ran on a progressive platform and competed for an open seat.

“That’s nine more houses I could have knocked on, nine more phone calls I could have made, nine more people who forgot it was voting day,” Barnabas said. “It was so small, it was humorous. It’s either tragic or humorous.”

As of 7 p.m. June 22, 1,887 voters or 34.9% had cast ballots. There were 169 absentee ballots tabulated. Blankley had 100 and Barnabas 69.

Rajesh Barnabas awaited the opening of absentee ballots at the Board of Elections Training Center. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

During the absentee count, two ballots were eliminated because they were mailed in the same envelope, a violation of election procedures that require one ballot per envelope. Election officials said the ballots were not the same and because they had no way of knowing the voters’ intentions, both ballots were disqualified.

“I shook his hand,” Barnabas said. “I think this is as fair an outcome as you’re going to get.”

Barnabas called the campaign fun and interesting. He said continuing as the Working Families candidate would be a “unique opportunity to run a serious third-party candidate that’s already got name recognition from the Democratic primary.”

He said that decision would be made after meeting with grass roots groups that supported him in the Democratic primary.

Voters also would get another chance to be heard.

“You can’t sit these things out,” Blankley said. “Clearly, every vote counts.”