Saratoga County

Contested ballots favoring Murphy

Democrat Scott Murphy continues to pick up votes this week, as a few hundred more ballots that had b

Democrat Scott Murphy continues to pick up votes this week, as a few hundred more ballots that had been contested were resolved and counted.

Murphy now leads Republican James Tedisco by 401 votes, according to an updated count released by the state Board of Elections.

But Tedisco’s attorney said he wasn’t calling it quits yet.

“I don’t think the lead is insurmountable. I still think there’s a lot of paper that needs to be counted,” said James Walsh, attorney for the GOP.

Between 700 and 900 paper ballots remain to be ruled on and counted — or not counted, if that’s the decision.

Elections commissioners from several counties brought some of their contested ballots to the board’s offices in Albany on Thursday to review them with lawyers from the Murphy and Tedisco campaigns.

Most counties left the session with three piles of votes — those that could be counted, those that everyone agreed were void and those that the two sides couldn’t agree on so the judge will have to decide.

Votes that were resolved included those on which voters hadn’t quite followed directions on the absentee ballot, perhaps marking the box beside the candidate’s name instead of the box they were supposed to check or picking the same candidate on multiple party lines instead of just one.

Although more steps are still to come, Thursday’s count seemed like the beginning of the end.

“We’re 23 days from the election, and we’re not that far from being done,” said John Conklin, state Board of Elections spokesman.

He said state law requires the board to certify election results within 40 days of Election Day, which was March 31.

“We may have a final and official number in a couple of weeks,” Conklin said.

Compared to a November state Senate race in Queens that was finally certified March 10, the 20th Congressional District count is moving along quickly, he said.

The atmosphere on Thursday was light and convivial as election attorneys bantered with county election commissioners.

GOP attorney John Ciampoli groused good-naturedly with Board of Elections officials about the lack of sufficient coffee in the borrowed meeting room.

At the end of the session, he removed his laminated Tedisco badge and handed it to Murphy attorney Henry T. Berger as a souvenir.

The next big action in the election will come Monday, when both sides again meet for a hearing before Judge James Brands of state Supreme Court in Poughkeepsie.

Brands is expected to issue rulings then on residency issues and conflicts with absentee ballot applications, which Conklin said are the biggest outstanding issues left in whether to count certain votes.

Some absentee votes remain contested because there is doubt about whether the voter lived in the congressional district.

Berger, the Murphy attorney, said there are 350 ballots that fall into that category, which will have to be considered on a case-by-case basis. He could not say whether the judge himself will look at all those votes.

“The margin may be so great that we may not ever get to that issue.”

Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties counted some of their contested ballots in their counties on Wednesday, and Washington finished that process Thursday in Albany.

Representatives from Greene, Rensselaer, Otsego, Essex, Delaware, Dutchess and Columbia counties brought their ballots to Albany on Thursday to go over them one by one with the lawyers.

The count of paper ballots has been going on since earlier this month, after the March 31 special election was too close to call.

Murphy and Tedisco are vying to fill U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s former House seat. She left that post when she was named to Hillary Clinton’s former Senate seat.

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