Saturday, February 16, 2008

Harlem Mystery: Did Rangel's District Go for Barack

By John Nichold
The Nation - blog

New York Congressman Charlie Rangel was an early and
essential backer of Hillary Clinton's campaign for

The support of the senior House Democrat was required
if the senator from New York was to be able to run
nationally with the assurance that her home turf was
"locked up." And Rangel, as the dean of New York's
Democratic House delegation, and a dominant player in
the politics of Harlem for four decades, helped to do
just that.

Along with the support of Georgia Congressman John
Lewis, Rangel's backing also gave Clinton credibility
in the African-American community beyond New York. But,
now, Lewis is wavering in his support for Clinton --
suggesting to the New York Times that, after his
Atlanta-area congressional district voted
overwhelmingly for Barack Obama, he is likely to cast
his superdelegate vote at the Democratic National
Convention for the surging senator from Illinois.

When word came that Lewis and other African-American
House members were starting to talk about "keeping
faith" with their constituents and voting for the
candidate who could be the first African-American
nominee for president, I immediately checked the
results from Rangel's congressional district.

According to figures reported after the February 5 New
York primary, Rangel's Harlem-based 15th district voted
rather comfortably for Clinton. The unofficial count
with 100 percent of the votes supposedly tabulated was:

Clinton -- 55,359 votes, 53 percent

Obama -- 47,514 votes, 45 percent

That was close enough to create a 3-3 delegate split.
But it was a clear Clinton win, and thus there would be
no pressure on Rangel to vote the will of a
congressional district that backed Obama.

Or so it seemed.

Now comes Saturday's New York Times Metro Section
report headlined: "Unofficial Tallies in City
Understated Obama Vote."

According to the paper:

"Black voters are heavily represented in the 94th
Election District in Harlem's 70th Assembly District.
Yet according to the unofficial results from the New
York Democratic primary last week, not a single vote in
the district was cast for Senator Barack Obama.

That anomaly was not unique. In fact, a review by The
New York Times of the unofficial results reported on
primary night found about 80 election districts among
the city's 6,106 where Mr. Obama supposedly did not
receive even one vote, including cases where he ran a
respectable race in a nearby district.

City election officials this week said that their
formal review of the results, which will not be
completed for weeks, had confirmed some major
discrepancies between the vote totals reported publicly
-- and unofficially -- on primary night and the actual
tally on hundreds of voting machines across the city.:

The Times adds this relevant information: "The 94th
Election District in Harlem, for instance, sits within
the Congressional district represented by Charles B.
Rangel, an original supporter of Mrs. Clinton."

No one is suggesting that Rangel did anything wrong,
nor should they. There are many explanations for why
vote counts are off, and there are many players in the
process -- and Rangel is one of the more honorable of
the lot.

What New Yorkers should be asking for, however, is a
complete review of the results in New York City, with a
heavy focus not just on the 80 election district where
Obama supposedly received no votes but also on those
where it appears that his vote was far below the level
of support that he received in surrounding districts --
and that might reasonably be expected.

Could there be another 8,000 votes for Obama in the

That's a lot. But it is not beyond the realm of
possibility that they exist.

No one, be they Clinton or Obama supporters, should
question that every effort must be made to find every
Obama vote in Harlem, along with "missing" Obama votes
from other congressional districts in Manhattan and

At issue may be a few more pledged delegates for Obama
-- no small matter in a close race for the nomination
-- and the broader question of how superdelegates who
want to respect the sentiments of their constituents, a
group that could include Rangel and several other House
members from New York, cast their votes at this
summer's convention.


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