Carolyn Maloney declared winner in New York congressional race marred by mail-in ballot problems

Trump had called for a do-over in the contest, calling it a 'total disaster'

Election officials in New York finally declared winners late Tuesday in two congressional elections that were held back on June 23, but were mired by thousands of missing and uncounted mail-in ballots.

Democrat Rep. Carolyn Maloney defeated Suraj Patel in the 12th Congressional District, and city council member Ritchie Torres beat a slew of Democrats competing for an open seat in the 15th Congressional District.

The races have become Exhibit A in President Trump's campaign against universal mail-in balloting, which he and several experts say poses a major fraud risk. On Monday, Trump called for a do-over of the race in the 12th Congressional District, calling it a "total disaster."

Maloney held onto a mere 658-vote lead over Patel after in-person voting concluded, with 65,000 mail-in votes uncounted. The final, certified margin of victory was 3,700 votes. A total of 13,000 mail-in votes were tossed out for various reasons, including missing signatures or incorrect postmarks.

Patel has not yet conceded, and The Associated Press has not yet called the race. Legal challenges remain possible.

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Patel won a court battle Monday night as he sought to have some of those invalidated ballots counted, saying the United States Postal Service (USPS) was responsible for some of the issues. A judge ordered ballots received by June 24 to be counted, even if they weren't postmarked by June 23; the ruling also called for counting ballots that were received by June 25 and not postmarked later than June 23.

Fraud has not been alleged in the race, although a Fox News analysis found a slew of issues in other states in recent days, including intentional ballot fraud. Separately, Fox News has obtained a copy of a recent USPS memo sent to employees detailing budget-related cutbacks.

In this Oct. 31, 2019, file photo, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, joined at left by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, meet with reporters

In this Oct. 31, 2019, file photo, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, joined at left by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, meet with reporters (AP)

In the memo, the USPS says mail carriers may have to leave mail behind at distribution centers in order to make it on time to their delivery routes.

"One aspect of these changes that may be difficult for employees is that – temporarily – we may see mail left behind or mail on the workroom floor or docks (in P&DCs), which is not typical," the memo reads.

Both Republicans and election experts have said the situation could be a harbinger of a disastrous nationwide mail-in vote in November.

Democrats argue that mail-in balloting isn't any riskier than other methods of voting.

Meanwhile, in an apparent reversal earlier in the day, Trump encouraged voters in the critical swing state of Florida to vote by mail after months of criticizing the practice, and only days after threatening to sue Nevada over a new vote-by-mail law.

His encouragement follows a surge in Democratic requests to vote for mail in Florida, a state that Trump almost certainly must win to secure a second term. Democrats currently have about 1.9 million Floridians signed up to vote by mail this November, almost 600,000 more than the Republicans’ 1.3 million, according to the Florida Secretary of State.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany rejected the notion that the president has changed his views. She said he supports absentee voting by mail for a reason, as opposed to states mailing out ballots to all voters regardless of whether they requested them. Most election officials say there is little effective difference between absentee voting and voting by mail.

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Trump elaborated on why he supports voting by mail in Florida, but not elsewhere.

“They’ve been doing this over many years and they’ve made it really terrific," Trump said.

“This took years to do," he added. "This doesn’t take weeks or months. In the case of Nevada, they’re going to be voting in a matter of weeks. And you can’t do that.”

In July, Republicans soundly defeated defeat a Democratic-led legal effort to force taxpayers in Florida to fund mail-in ballot postage fees, eliminate ballot-return deadlines and strike down laws restricting the practice of "ballot harvesting" – which allows political operatives to retrieve vote-by-mail ballots en masse and return them to polling places.

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The Democratic super PAC Priorities USA had sued the Republican Party and GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, but agreed to a settlement that dismissed the case just before trial was set to begin. The agreement includes provisions to educate voters about how to register to vote and cast mail-in ballots, while also educating election supervisors about prepaid postage.

Fox News' Andrew O'Reilly and The Associated Press contributed to this report.