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Murphy Opens Up 273-Vote Lead Over Tedisco

By David A. Patten   |   Friday, 17 Apr 2009 03:08 PM

All unchallenged ballots in the closely watched District 20 election have now been counted, with Democrat Scott Murphy holding a 273-vote lead over Republican Jim Tedisco.

Those results remain unofficial, and approximately 1,100 challenged absentee ballots are yet to be tabulated, election officials tell Newsmax.

Additional changes can be expected over the course of the next week, but completion of the counting of unchallenged ballots signals that Murphy has established a significant, albeit narrow, advantage in this early phase of what is expected to be a tortuous struggle over who actually won the election.

So far, 159,405 votes have been counted, and the week concludes with Murphy opening up his biggest lead to date over Tedisco.

The end-of-week vote tallies provided by the New York State Election Board show Murphy with 79,839 votes to 79,566 for Tedisco.

Murphy’s current lead represents two-tenths of 1 percent of all votes tallied so far in the election.

The upstate New York race has drawn national attention as a measuring stick for the relative political strengths of Democrats versus the GOP. Both parties poured substantial amounts of time and money into the hard-fought special election, which pitted former Assemblyman Tedisco against political neophyte Murphy.

Tedisco’s advantage was that Republican voter registrations in the district outnumbered those of Democrats by about 70,000 votes. But Murphy received influential endorsements from President Obama and the popular Kirsten Gillibrand, who had vacated the House seat that either Tedisco or Murphy will ultimately fill. Gillibrand has moved over to the Senate, to fill the spot that opened up with former Sen. Hillary Clinton was confirmed to serve as President Obama’s Secretary of State.

According to the Election Board, all 10 counties in District 20 have now completed their machine-vote canvassing, their absentee-ballot tabulation, and the counting of military and overseas ballots.

That pool of about 1,100 absentee ballots that were challenged by either campaign are all that remain to be counted.

The Albany Times-Union reports the counting of those ballots was delayed Friday due to county election officials’ confusion over a court order issued Wednesday by Justice James Brands.

Election officials in Essex, Washington, and Saratoga announced they would postpone any counting of the challenged absentee ballots until they receive further clarification on the judge’s order.

This coming Monday, Justice Brands will hear legal arguments from the two campaigns over whether the remaining 1,100 challenged ballots are valid.

The Tedisco campaign has objected that a large number of New York City and Long Island residents who own second homes in the district inappropriately cast votes for Murphy. Tedisco’s legal team wants any such “double votes” disqualified.

Murphy’s attorneys, conversely, are expected to argue that the Empire State has long allowed voters to cast votes in different districts, as long as voting in two different districts does not occur in the same calendar year. As the Tedisco-Murphy contest was a special election, that would not have occurred.

The Tedisco campaign remains upbeat despite the recent voting trends.

“The closeness of this race shows just how much every vote matters,” Tedisco spokesman Tyler Brown tells Newsmax. “Ultimately, this election will be decided by the remaining absentee ballots that have been set apart for the judge to examine.”

As both sides prepare their legal briefs for the judge, the hue and cry from Democrats for Tedisco to concede the election has already begun.

Carly Lindauer of the State Democratic Committee told the Times-Union on Friday: “His campaign continues to push for votes to be thrown aside without any real basis for their dismissal, disenfranchising voters in a sad attempt to delay an inevitable loss. Jim Tedisco is preventing residents in the 20th Congressional District from having the representation they deserve during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression."

Election experts are predicting a long and difficult post-election struggle. Once all the votes are counted, that process would likely begin with a lawsuit requesting a statewide recount of the results.

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