Two court rulings delivered significant blows to Republican Jim Tedisco’s hopes of overcoming a series of absentee-ballot setbacks that have left him falling farther behind Democrat Scott Murphy in the upstate New York congressional race.
Murphy leads Tedisco by 167 votes, as absentee and other paper ballots continue to be tallied.
Thursday morning, the New York State Board of Election reported Murphy ahead with 79,404 votes. Tedisco has 79,237.
Although that 167-vote margin is minuscule given the nearly 160,000 votes cast, four of the five counties yet to complete their vote counts fell for Murphy on election day. Because absentee balloting generally follows Election Day trends, pundits say Murphy probably has an advantage in the remaining uncounted ballots.
Going into the absentee counting phase, the 6,700 absentee ballots were considered critical to the election’s outcome. That pool of uncounted ballots is now diminishing fast.
State records show that 4,077 absentee ballots have already been counted. Adding in the 1,200 ballots stalled due to objections, and fewer than 1,500 ballots have yet to be processed.
The two rulings by Dutchess County Justice James V. Brands complicate Tedisco’s efforts to challenge ballots that he believes should be rejected.
Specifically, Brands ruled late Wednesday that some of Tedisco’s reasons for challenging ballots are invalid. Brands stated that if both Republican and Democratic election commissioners in a county agree an absentee ballot is valid, the ballot should be counted even if a campaign objects to its validity.
As an apparent concession to Tedisco, however, Brands ruled that absentee-ballot envelopes should be preserved in such a case, and a notation should be made that the ballot was challenged prior to its being counted.
According to CQPolitics.com, Brands also blocked a Tedisco bid to review applications voters filed for absentee ballots prior to the election. Tedisco’s legal team maintains that scores of votes in the district were cast by Democrats whose primary residences are in New York City and Long Island.
Tedisco spokesman Tyler Brown tells Newsmax, “Residents of the 20th Congressional District need to have confidence that this election was decided fairly, and not unduly influenced by residents of New York City."
How the Tedisco campaign could verify double residency, or find other disqualifying evidence, without examining the absentee-ballot applications remains to be seen. A hearing before Judge Brands has been set for Monday to review that question.
"We've received the judge's order and are preparing to make our case before him on Monday that this election should be decided by the voters of the 20th Congressional District and not be unduly influenced by residents of New York City," Tedisco attorney James E. Walsh tells Newsmax.
The Murphy campaign was delighted with Brands ruling. His legal team had warned that Tedisco’s efforts to disqualify votes could disenfranchise District 20 voters.
"We're once again pleased with today's court ruling and we look forward to the board reviewing and counting these challenged ballots as soon as possible," Murphy's attorney Henry T. Berger said in a statement released by the campaign.
"We've always maintained that the people of the 20th Congressional District deserve to have their votes counted in a timely manner,” Berger added, “so they can be represented in Congress as quickly as possible in these tough economic times. We are confident that once all the absentee ballots are counted, Scott Murphy will win this election."
Yesterday, pro-Tedisco Saratoga County reported absentee-vote counts that gave Tedisco a net gain of 81 votes. That wasn’t enough to offset Murphy’s advantage in other counties, however, leading to Murphy’s lead of 86 votes late Wednesday. Further vote totals called into the State Board Thursday morning led to Murphy’s current lead of 167 votes.
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