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Judge Rejects Sharpton Claims of Fraud in N.Y. Primary Vote

September 20, 1997|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — A federal judge refused to put Al Sharpton back in the running for mayor Friday, rejecting the activist minister's claims of fraud and irregularities in last week's Democratic primary.

U.S. District Judge Denny Chin, though, still criticized the city's Board of Elections for creating a "horrible situation."

The board's initial tally of the Sept. 9 election called for a runoff between Ruth Messinger and Sharpton. But a final count more than a week later determined Messinger had topped 40% of the vote, making a runoff unnecessary.

"Irregularities appear to be a regular feature of New York City elections," Chin said, adding that the board had "an obligation to step forward and say, 'This race is too close to call.' "

After the decision, Sharpton's supporters chanted, "No justice! No peace!" and said they would take their fight to state court. But even Sharpton's lawyers acknowledged an uphill struggle.

Sharpton had alleged in his federal suit that voters were denied their right to vote because of broken equipment and bureaucratic incompetence. He said those factors make it harder to vote in minority communities than elsewhere in the city.

Chin said the lawyers did not produce evidence proving that certain parts of the city are discriminated against.

The final tally, announced Thursday--nine days after the primary--showed Messinger cleared the 40% benchmark by just 793 votes out of more than 400,000 cast.

The ballot controversy has been a cloud over Messinger's campaign. The Manhattan borough president faces a daunting challenge in trying to oust Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, the Republican incumbent who is riding a surge of popularity because of the city's lower crime rate and improved economy.

In a statement Friday, Messinger said the board's delayed announcement "has been an embarrassment to all New Yorkers."

Longtime party members said it's the Democrats who should be embarrassed.

"This was a Democratic debacle," former Mayor Edward I. Koch said. "I have never seen such terrible campaigns as we have been subjected to. The nomination has turned out to be worthless."

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