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Tedisco Captures 97-Vote Lead In N.Y. Race

By David A. Patten   |   Monday, 06 Apr 2009 04:56 PM

Republican Jim Tedisco has surged back into the lead in his high-profile election battle against Democratic challenger Scott Murphy, and now holds a 97-vote lead according to the latest tabulation by the New York State Board of Elections.

The official count in the 20th District congressional race as of Monday afternoon: Tedisco with 76,914 votes and Murphy with 76,817.

Those vote totals actually indicate the total number of votes cast in the race was 700 fewer than the number reported on Friday. The reason for the difference: The vote counts submitted by Saratoga County officials on Election Day exceeded the actual number cast, based on the canvassing of vote tallies recorded by the actual machines.

Saratoga County completed its canvassing Monday, and the revised figures give Tedisco his current 97-vote lead.

The lead may change hands several times as additional counties call in adjusted vote totals based on canvassing efforts. Officials report four counties in the congressional district have yet to complete their canvassing: Essex, Washington, Columbia, and Greene.

“We’re off dead-even for the moment,” pollster Steven Greenberg of Siena College tells Newsmax. “It’s going to continue to change before they open the first absentee, and then it will continue to change after that.”

Canvassing involves comparing the tallies recorded on election machines with the vote totals called in to county election offices on March 31. If the two do not match, the machine vote count is presumed correct.

The big unknown in the much-touted District 20 contest, billed as a bellwether test of the popularity of President Obama’s economic policies: More than 6,600 absentee votes that have not yet been counted.

On Monday afternoon, the New York court supervising the opening of absentee ballots ordered that the counties must begin the counting of those ballots – other than military and international ballots coming from overseas – by Wednesday, April 8. Earlier Monday, election officials told Newsmax they believed no absentee ballots would be counted until April 13.

April 13 is the deadline for receipt of military and international absentee ballots.

The court’s Monday afternoon order stated: “In order to have the votes counted in an orderly fashion, it would make sense that the canvassing of those absentee ballots other than those particularly identified [as coming from abroad] should commence on April 8, 2009 rather than sit in storage for another six days.”

The court also announced that a hearing will be held April 13 to resolve other issues, including when the overseas ballots will be tabulated.

Before today’s revised figures were released, Tedisco and Murphy spent the weekend in a dead heat — with each candidate earning 77,225 votes.

That result prompted Greenberg to remark Friday: “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. 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.”

Observers will be paying close attention to the critical absentee ballots yet to be counted, given the experience in Minnesota.

There, GOP Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken have been locked in an election battle that has dragged on for more than five months. In Minnesota, absentee ballots triggered repeated disputes over which votes should be counted.

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