New York's Bizarro Congressional Election Results
And yet again, we wait.
Following an abbreviated but frenetic election season, the race to replace Kirsten Gillibrand in New York's 20th Congressional district seat came crashing to a somehow appropriate halt on the eve of April Fool's Day. Money in previously unseen amounts had come flowing into a district which rarely garnered significant national attention in the past. Party leaders from both camps made personal appeals to the voters, with the president himself coming off the bench to aid Scott Murphy in his battle against Republican Assemblyman Jim "Jimmy Disco" Tedisco. When this reporter went to cover one of their debates in Saratoga Springs, I found a "press box" suited for the usual dozen journalists packed to the rafters and out into the hall with correspondents from CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and the rest of the alphabet soup of mainstream media.
On the evening of March 31, all of the partisan pushing and shoving came to naught. When the final precincts reported in, Murphy held the slimmest of leads, announced as either 65 or 59 votes depending upon which published report you preferred to read. In a race where national Democrats hoped to demonstrate the president's continued star power and the GOP sought an omen of midterm success to come, the result was disappointing for both camps.
A proclamation of victory, unsatisfying though it may be, could still lie a fair distance down the road. Roughly ten thousand absentee ballots were requested for this event which must be received and counted by April 7. An additional week is allowed for voters on active duty in the military. Article II of the State Constitution mandates a rapid count and conclusion to the electoral process specifically to avoid mischief with the ballot box once the votes are collected. This, however, has not prevented numerous legal scholars, authors, and law firms from making a fine living dissecting the Empire State's arcane election laws.
Should the final numbers remain this close, provisions exist for challenges to the result. In extremis, precedent is in place for the courts to demand a new election if sufficient flawed or fraudulent ballots are found to have turned the tide of a close race. Any reasonable challenge from the losing candidate will at least be heard by a judge before the final result is certified. In any event, the odds of seating a winner shortly after April 13 appear slim unless one of them can rack up a lead of several hundred votes from the absentee ballots.