New vote totals in New York’s landmark 20th congressional district race pitting Republican Assemblyman Jim Tedisco against Democrat Scott Murphy now show the two candidates perfectly deadlocked with the exactly the same number of votes.
“At the moment I feel like we’ve joined the ranks of Florida 200 and Minnesota 2008,” New York pollster Steven Greenberg of Siena College says, sharing his reaction with Newsmax.
Greenberg, the lone independent pollster who evaluated the race, described the current dead heat as “eye popping.”
New figures posted at 4 p.m. Friday by the New York State Board of Elections Web show Tedisco and Murphy each with precisely 77,225 votes.
Veteran New York political observers say at the current stage, it is the closest major political contest in the state’s modern political history.
“This is clearly the closest race, heading into the counting of the absentee ballots, I’ve ever seen outside of small village elections where there are a couple of hundred votes,” Greenberg tells Newsmax. “I’ve seen ties in those types of elections. But I’ve never seen a dead-even tie in an election with 155,000 votes.”
All eyes will now turn to the critical absentee ballots. A state board of elections source tells Newsmax that at 9:15 a.m. Monday a court hearing will be held to discuss when and how those ballots will be evaluated and counted.
Some counties have indicated they would prefer to delay counting absentee ballots until after April 13, the deadline for receipt of military and international ballots from abroad.
The stakes in how the absentee ballots are handled are high: Five months after the Norm Coleman-Al Franken senate race in Minnesota, legal disputes continue over accusations that inconsistent standards were applied regarding which ballots should be counted.
The District 20 counties continue to “canvass” their polling machines, which means the vote totals will continue to change. When canvassing the results, officials check the data on actual voting machines, comparing the tallies to the numbers called into central county offices on Election Day.
That canvassing led to repeated adjustments in vote total this week. Depending on the source, Murphy had either a 65-vote lead or a 59-vote lead after the election. Since then, his lead has steadily dwindled, to the point that on Thursday evening it became clear that Tedisco actually enjoyed a 12-vote advantage.
Further adjustments on Friday, however, favored Murphy. That left the election for now in that rarest of political outcomes, a true deadlock.
State election officials tell Newsmax that five of the 10 counties have completed their canvassing. Counties still in the process of correcting their vote tallies include: Essex, Washington, Saratoga, Columbia, and Greene.
In addition to canvassing and absentee ballots, election officials are also busily researching “affidavit” or provisional ballots. These are ballots of voters who showed up at the polls and claimed to be registered, but did not appear to be properly registered on the voter rolls. Those ballots were accepted provisionally, but must be researched and validated before they can be counted.
As expected, Republican and Democratic forces are already gearing up for an expensive, prolonged post-election battle. Every vote will be hotly contested given the much ballyhooed status of the race as a bellwether test of the GOP’s political resurgence amidst President Barack Obama’s controversial management of the economy.
Tedisco aides tell the Poughkeepsie Journal that legal expenses stemming from the ongoing vote count will cost the candidate at least $500,000.
“I still need your support,” Tedisco wrote to supporters late Friday, announcing the creation of the Tedisco Ballot Integrity Fund to underwrite efforts to ensure that ballots “are counted fairly and accurately.”
In a possible reference to Republicans’ woes in Minnesota, Tedisco added: “With your support, this fund will provide us the resources to guard against dirty tricks and human error in the counting of these votes.
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