NEW YORK, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- In a move that should solidify the Democratic mayoral ticket, Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer has endorsed former rival Mark Green in the race for mayor of New York City.
Ferrer's decision ends a divisive Democratic feud that could have benefited Republican candidate Michael Bloomberg.
On Friday, Green and Ferrer issued a statement pledging to work together during the two-week campaign and in Green's potential future administration.
The endorsement comes as somewhat of a surprise, after a rift developed between the two candidates during the primary campaign. Green, the city's public advocate, narrowly defeated Ferrer by a 51-49 percent margin on Oct. 11.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe came to New York this week and met with Green and a top aide to Ferrer in an effort to head off lawsuits threatened by Al Sharpton in an effort to have a unified Democratic Party against Bloomberg. However, it was marathon face-to-face discussions between Green and Ferrer that resulted in the subsequent show of unity.
Ferrer conceded the race to Green, when preliminary totals of the runoff provided by the police and the media had Green leading 52 percent to Ferrer's 48 percent and 30,000 votes apart.
However, as the New York City Board of Elections began certifying the run off, it was learned that as many as 40,000 votes may have been counted twice by mistake.
"For a long time, each polling place has had a police officer for security and they also transport the election results to police headquarters where they were entered and tabulated in the police computer, because the police had the best computer," Lee Daghlian, spokesman for the state Board of Elections told United Press International.
"What happened in the run off, and there hasn't been a run off in a very long time, was that many voting machines were used for more than one election district and some mistakenly counted the results of the machine twice."
Joseph Gentili, deputy executive director of the New York City Board of Elections said the election "results" compiled were not compiled by the Board of Elections and were not official.
"They are a combination of poll workers phoning in results to media organizations and the police count, wherein the police officers take results and take them to their station house where the results are entered into the police computer system," he said.
Gentili explained that if two election districts were used for a voting machine and 40 votes were cast, "The news service results appear to record the 40 votes twice -- over reporting the results and candidate totals."
More than 50,000 absentee ballots must also be counted and New York City Board of Elections spokeswoman Naomi Bernstein said the final tally would likely be finished Saturday or Sunday.
"The absentee ballots won't likely make a difference in the run off because the paper ballots often follow the results of the voting machines," Daghlian said. "About half of the absentee ballots will be thrown out because they are invalid and that could become a lengthy process if a candidate chooses to challenge each affidavit and ballots."
It had been a sleepy campaign among the four Democratic candidates before the Sept. 11 primary, which was postponed by the state after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Another primary was called for Sept. 25., but neither Green nor Ferrer gained 40 percent of the vote so a run off was called for Oct. 11.
However, each candidate accused the other of being divisive. Before the September attacks, Ferrer campaigned that New York City had "two cities" -- one that prospered under incumbent Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and another that did not. Ferrer claimed Green distributed an anti-Ferrer flier he said was racially offensive in the waning days of the run off. The Green campaign has denied any connection to the flier.
At the endorsement announcement Green promised to "investigate fully the origin of the material," and that anyone involved would have no role in his campaign or administration.
Sharpton, who had endorsed Ferrer, had said Wednesday, that he would sue under the federal Voting Rights Act, claiming the consolidation of election districts should have been approved by the federal government and that the double-counting and the alleged early publicizing of exit poll results had skewed the election.
Sharpton stood by Ferrer during the endorsement announcement but refused comment and did not endorse a candidate for mayor in the Nov. 6 election.
To underscore the importance of having a united party to win back city hall to the Democrats after eight years of the Republican administration of Giuliani, both U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as McAuliffe and the state Democratic chairman, Judy Hope attended the surprise endorsement announcement.
(Reported by Alex Cukan in Albany, N.Y.)