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Rangel’s Democratic opponent claiming voter suppression in contested primary

Lawyers for New York Rep. Charlie Rangel’s Democratic opponent are planning to re-file their court petition citing myriad problems with last week’s primary, after temporarily withdrawing the petition Monday in order to gather more evidence.

Rangel challenger, Democratic New York State Sen. Adrian Espaillat, is suggesting the tight race – in which Rangel declared victory – was marred by voter fraud.

"Voters have been pushed away, and as a result many feel that they were suppressed from voting," Espaillat declared. “The legitimacy of this election is at place right now ... there was a level of voter suppression. We are here to protect a process that must be reliable."

Rangel, the veteran Harlem Congressman who was first elected in 1970, declared victory in the Democratic primary for his 22nd term last week, despite redistricting and the shadow of his censure by the House in a tax and ethics scandal two years ago.

But Espaillat's supporters charge that votes were intentionally suppressed, not counted, and even tampered with. They are demanding that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder step in and launch a federal investigation of the election.

"There was a concerted effort to really steal the election from the community," claimed voter and Espaillat supporter Marilu Garvin. "In the Bronx, they were told that ‘this is a Republican election, not a Democratic election,’" he said about the Democratic primary.

"They were asking for ID's," said voter Espana Arristy. "That’s not requested in order to vote."

Espaillat's supporters also told Fox News that some voters who speak Spanish were not allowed to vote on the machines but told they had to fill out affidavit paper ballots.  Others were told that their names did not appear on the voting lists, and that poll workers even allegedly tampered with completed paper ballots by opening the envelopes after they were voted.

"Over 70 electoral districts came in at zero on election night.  Imagine this, 70 election districts came in at zero on election night, with no results whatsoever," said Espaillat. "That is highly irregular."

Rangel’s lead has narrowed considerably since election night.

The New York City Board of Elections has said that all the machine votes have been counted, leaving Rangel in the lead by just 802 votes. Two-thousand absentee and affidavit ballots will still be counted and the result of that tally is expected to be announced on Thursday.

A group that supports Espaillat, the Dominican American National Roundtable, fears the questionable election activities were an attempt to throw the election to Rangel.

"We believe that there was a concerted effort to suppress or deny Latino voters," said group President Maria Teresa Montilla. She told Fox News they received "countless reports" of problems, including affidavit ballots that she says "were not properly guarded."

At a court hearing Monday, Rangel's campaign manager Moises Perez said both sides want clarity.

“We want this process to be clear, and to be concluded as soon as possible,” Perez said. “We are confident that the Board of Elections will do its job and certify a winner.”

Lawyers for Espaillat temporarily withdrew their petition citing the election problems, and will re-file their complaints with more material.

"If people think their vote doesn't count, if people think somebody's stealing their votes or buying their votes or that the machine reads don't actually record their votes, this is a real blow to the system. We need to believe in this system for it to work," said New York Post political columnist and Fox News contributor Michael Goodwin, who has covered New York City politics for decades.

"Something definitely went wrong. I think there's no question. Now part of it may be simple human error in the sense that these are new district lines, new polling places in many cases," he said. "However this works out, I think this is not good for the integrity and the perception of the integrity in the electoral process."

Rangel’s office so far has not responded to a request from Fox News for comment.

If you suspect voter fraud or problems at the polls where you live, tell us. Voterfraud@Foxnews.com

 

Eric Shawn is a New York-based anchor and senior correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He anchors "America's News Headquarters" on Sundays from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. ET. and  “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo.” He anchors frequently  during the week on the Fox News Channel and reports on politics, terrorism, and foreign affairs. Shawn has  provided live coverage from both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions since 1992.  In 2004 he led the Fox News investigative team that uncovered new evidence in the murder of Jimmy Hoffa, based on the claims of hit-man Frank Sheeran.  Click here for more information on Eric Shawn.