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NY-20 Recount Takes a Turn for the Absurd

By Keith Richburg
NEW YORK --The ongoing, nip-and-tuck battle for New York's 20th District Congressional seat continued today, with the latest Board of Elections tally showing the Democrat, Scott Murphy, with an 86-vote lead over Republican Jim Tedisco.

But the contest, which now is being waged over which absentee ballots to count, took a turn for the absurd when the Republicans challenged the ballot of the district's popular favorite daughter, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D), whose former House seat is on the line.

Tedisco representatives in Columbia County argued that Gillibrand was in the district on Election Day, March 31, and could have voted in person, rendering her absentee ballot invalid. Gillibrand was indeed in the district, doing some last minute campaigning with Murphy.

The election was held after Gillibrand was appointed to take Hillary Clinton's seat in the Senate, and the race quickly became a referendum on President Obama's economic policies, and particularly his $787 billion stimulus bill, which the Democrat strongly endorsed and the Republican opposed.

Challenging the former senator's ballot appeared to illustrate the Republicans' aggressive approach in this protracted recount phase, a painstaking county-by-county canvass of absentee, overseas and military ballots, during which poll watchers from both sides can request that ballots they deem questionable be set aside. Some independent analysts said the tactic showed "desperation."

"This is part of their larger attempt to disenfranchise legal Democratic voters and delay the inevitable Democratic victory in the 20th," said Gillibrand spokesman Bethany Lesser. She said Gillibrand was in the district on Election Day, but not in Columbia County, where she resides when not in Washington.

Besides, Lesser said, the law says only that a voter must "intend" to be out of the area on election day in order to vote absentee.

Gillibrand penned an op-ed for the Huffington Post entitled "Let My Vote And Every Vote Be Counted," in which she said, "Today the Republicans stooped to a new low by challenging my ballot challenging my ballot. The Republicans' challenge is frivolous and without merit."

"National Republicans are trying to turn the 20th District of New York into the next Minnesota," she said, referring to the seemingly never-ended U.S. Senate race between Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken. "It is wrong," she said.

Countered Tedisco campaign spokesman Tyler Brown: "Representatives from the campaign are raising concerns on those ballots that may have been improperly cast, regardless of who they belong to. Ultimately, those concerns and others will be answered by the judge so that we can reach a fair and final outcome to this election."

Douglas Muzzio, a political scientist at City University's Baruch College, who has family ties to the district, said the Republicans "are desperate. They sold it as a referendum on Obama and his policies. They poured money into it. [GOP Chairman Michael] Steele visited it. They considered that a key race, and they don't want to lose it."

"They'd challenge everything, and when they finish with the political process, they'll go with the judiciary," Muzzio said. "I think they're going to fight this one to the bitter end."

The election board's latest updated count, including those absentee, paper ballots already counted, show Murphy, a former venture capitalist, with 79,105 votes, and Tedisco, the former Republican leader in the state assembly, with 79,019.

On election night, Murphy also held a slight lead over Tedisco, just 59 votes.

Experts on elections and politics said so far the counting of the absentee ballots is confirming a general rule; that absentee votes, which are paper ballots, almost always follow the trend established on election day, where voters cast ballots by machine.

It was once widely believed that absentee voters were more Republican, and GOP officials held out hope that would prove the case in this race. But experts said that old rule hardly holds true today -- if it ever did.

"What we're seeing is essentially what we saw on election night," said Steven Greenberg, spokesman for the Siena (College) Research Institute's New York poll. "The general rule of thumb is that the paper essentially follows the machines. There's no reason the paper ballots will be all that different from the machines on election day."

The main trend being established is that Murphy is doing well in his strongholds, and performing better-than-expected in Tedisco's Republican base areas, particularly Saratoga County, a GOP stronghold.

In Saratoga, Tedisco won absentee ballots counted so far by 672 to 509 -- a 163 vote difference. But that advantage was nearly offset by Murphy's strong showing in Washington and Warren counties, which Murphy won by 81 votes and 58 votes respectively.

Meanwhile, while challenging Gillibrand and scores of other Democratic voters, the Republican camp accused the Democrats of trying to challenge GOP votes.

Today, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani sent out a fundraising letter for Tedisco, saying only a handful of votes separate the two, and asking for support. "Nancy Pelosi and the D.C. Democrats have sent in a team of attorneys to challenge Republican absentee ballots," Giuliani wrote. "They will not rest until the election results show a victory for Jim's Democrat opponent. Their plan is to win at all costs!"

By Web Politics Editor  |  April 15, 2009; 7:03 PM ET
 
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Comments

I was going to note the widening credibility gap, but then got cautious, since the Republicans seem to own the concept, and may be intending to trade mark, copy right, and patent it.

"Giuliani wrote. "They will not rest until the election results show a victory for Jim's Democrat opponent. Their plan is to win at all costs!" "

"?"

Oh! And Bloomberg is back to wanting to be a Republican.

"There's a sign post up ahead, you just crossed over."

"We control the horizontal, we control the vertical."

Is Ron Goulart scripting NY State Politics? Is Jonathan Winters in the back room running the RNC?

Is this a reaction to Al Franken getting closer to the Senate? Will Jason Robards run out in the street and yell "Hey all you rich people..."

It really is a thousand clowns, and they all went to a Tea Party. "One pill makes you bigger, and one pill makes you small, and the ones that mother gives you don't do anything at all." "Twinkle Twinkle Twinkle"

"They'll put you in the ASPCA you mangy mutt!!"

Posted by: ceflynline | April 15, 2009 9:38 PM | Report abuse

First of all, for you folks in Minnesota, I wouldn't count Franken's eggs in the basket. The US Supreme Court is still controlled by the republicans. Thomas, Scalia, & Alito are licking their chops to get at this one. The opportunity to overturn another state supreme court to determine another election is better than sex to this trio.

Roberts would not dare anger Rush Limbaugh, and Souter still owes George H.W.
big time.

Rumor has it that Thomas has claimed the privilege to drive the proverbial stake through Franken's blasphemous heart once and for all.

By that time the republicans will have their cue to move swiftly to the US Supreme court for another election victory to seat Tedisco.

Posted by: harley79rigid | April 15, 2009 10:44 PM | Report abuse

For those of you brain dead liberals who have lost the ability to think clearly, I'll re-state the truth. The votes in the MN. Senate race have NOT been counted in a consistent manner since the beginning of the recount. At the start of the recount, various libtard partisans such as Mark Ritchie let the votes for Franken-stien be counted using extremely loose standards that even the judges admitted were in error. After assuring that there were enough votes "found" for Franken-stien, the vote counting standards were tightened considerably, to make sure that no more votes could be "found" for Coleman. Had the vote count standards been consistent from the beginning, Franken-stien would be crying out for perverted "justice" until somehow enough votes were "found" for him. The only real, honest solution is to start the recount over with consistent standards from vote number 1, PERIOD.

Posted by: braindeadliberals | April 16, 2009 2:16 AM | Report abuse

For those of you who haven't been following the MN challenge, I have to say right up front that it looks like NY is going the same way for the same reason. In a close race, the Republicans have found it beneficial to dispute the results for months for the sole purpose of keeping a Democratic vote out of Washington.

If you need a refresher course on the history and facts concerning MN, particularly you, braindead, go to http://www.mncourts.gov/Documents/2/Public/Civil/41309%20coleman%20franken/Findings_of_Fact_Conclusions_of_Law_and_Order_for_Judgment.pdf and read the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law for the MN contest. If you already believe that the poll workers, the MN state election officials, and the MN district judges are all corrupt and in collusion to make sure a Democrat wins, this link will not be helpful to you. For the rest of you, you'll appreciate the clarity.

The points to be watching for in NY are:
1) A concerted effort to suppress absentee ballots from registered Democrats. The ax is currently falling on university students and people owning rent controlled apts. in NYC. In some university areas, 2/3 of the absentees have been objected to by Tedisco's people.
2) If this doesn't scoot Tedisco ahead in the count, look for pleas to "count all the ballots." This will certainly include ballots arriving past the deadline, ballots without proper registration or signatures, as long as they are from Republican precincts.
3) Oral claims of fraud, but not inside a courtroom where you have to have some evidence besides rhetoric. ACORN should figure largely in this phase even when it has nothing to do with anything. Sometimes they throw in "baby killer" too.
4) All sorts of claims about "found ballots," bought election officials, and lots of claims of poll workers doing nefarious things-again not inside a courtroom where you can't just spout off whatever.
5) Claims that the whole election was so messed up that no winner can be declared and you need a do-over.

I hope you have a duly elected congressman at the end of the count, but if it's not Tedisco, be prepared for months of foaming at the mouth and calls for a re-do. So sad.

Posted by: goldenhind | April 16, 2009 6:30 AM | Report abuse

Why is everyone getting their bloomers in a bunch over whether the senator voted in person, therefore invalidating her absentee vote? Simply go to the precinct list of where she COULD vote in person and see if she did ? Don't they check people in at the polling place before they are given a ballot/card/access to a machine ?
Get a grip people

Posted by: jmsbh | April 16, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Governor Patterson caused this problem. He knows the district is republican leaning and he gave the congresswoman the senate job. Now Patterson will probably pay for this next year. He has not shown any competence and should not run for governor.

Posted by: truth1 | April 16, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Republican Norm Coleman wants MORE absentee ballots counted in Minnesota. Wrong on two counts:
1. All uncounted absentee ballots have already been reviewed two, three or four times and declared illegal. Almost all of them are either from people who also voted on election day or from nonregistered voters. NO court will order these counted.
2. Franken gains 20 votes for every 100 absentee votes counted. Count another 1,000 and Franken will gain 200 more votes. Count 4,000 and he will gain 800.
If Coleman got illegal votes counted he would be an even bigger loser!

Posted by: abowers1 | April 16, 2009 10:08 PM | Report abuse

As a resident of Minnesota I cringe for those that want a rational reprentative government. I also feel your pain as you start a long painful process. Clearly the GOP has failed adhere to our tradition of peaceful transitions of power. In Minnesota the longer this has gone on the clearer the picture of the Republican party has become. In Minnesota it has been shameless political gamesmanship with little regard to right and wrong. It starts with a recount, there will be the slandering of the voting process being flawed. Then when there is the turn to absentee ballots, In Minnesota they wanted none counted until behind, then they wanted to cherry pick ballots, then when further behind they expanded the list, when those were counted they wanted illegal votes counted. When they lost that case they argue on the grounds that all ballots were not handled indentically in all preciencts. The next step will be to state that there was no clear winner and suggest invalidating the entire election. Beware, there will be no stopping this process until the Republicans realize how they are damaging their future. In Minnesota ours is a senate seat of 6 years. Good luck seating a congressman before the next election! By the way have Republicans thought through this partisanship. Do they not realize the precident they are creating in resolving cloes elections?

Posted by: tdaniel1 | April 20, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

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