Democrat Scott Murphy and Republican Jim Tedisco finished yesterday in a dead heat in the Congressional race for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's old House seat.
Amherst Guy at The Albany Project seeks to clear up some misconceptions about what happens now.
For one thing, he notes, no candidate is really in the lead, as current results (which show Murphy 65 votes up) are unofficial.
Results are read off of machines by Person A to Person B who writes them down. Person B calls the BOE and reads - over the phone - the results to Person C at the BOE, who writes them down. Person C gives the sheet to person D who types them into a computer.
10 chances for error:
Person A misreads
Person A misspeaks
Person B mishears
Person B miswrites
Person B misreads
Person B misspeaks
Person C mishears
Person C miswrites
Person D misreads
Person D mistypes
I've seen numbers change by 500 votes in one precinct because of this "telephone game" style of election reporting. Starting tomorrow, these results will be reviewed an corrected at every stage. Look for swings in vote counts.
Second, he notes, there's a larger universe of absentee (and provisional!) ballots than just the 5,900 currently returned.
Absentee ballots can be received for a full week, and overseas ballots get an additional week after that. About 10,000 ballots were requested, and 5900 have been returned so far. So provided everything is postmarked by March 30, it will be at least two weeks before all the ballots are in.
DavidNYC at Swing State Project has some good news about the absentee ballots. He notes that the New York Daily News reports that Republicans have a 600-ballot edge with respect to all absentee ballots requested..and a 798-ballot edge among those returned.
These numbers might be good news for Scott Murphy. Accord to the NYS BoE (PDF, p. 9), enrollment in the 20th is 42R-26D-24I. If those percentages had held among the 5,906 absentee ballots returned so far, there would have been 2,468 GOP ballots vs. 1,547 Dem ballots - a margin of 921. But we know that the GOP only has a 798-ballot edge.
In other words, registered Democrats are represented disproportionately in terms of the number of people who requested and returned absentee ballots.
That's great news, since registered Democrats make up only one quarter of the total voting pool in NY-20. You can't win the election with just Democrats, but it's helpful that Democrats make up a larger-than-normal block of absentee ballots here.
Coupled with provisional ballots (which Amherst Guy
claims will says tend to favor Democrats), the Murphy campaign has reason to be cautiously optimistic that they'll finish this race on top.
So should the Tedisco campaign, of course. This is a ridiculously close election, and as of right now, no one has any idea who won.
We do know, however, that Republicans outnumber Democrats by 70,000 in this district.
We know that former Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand was the first Democrat to hold this district in 28 years, when she won in 2006.
We know that we put up a political newcomer against a 26-year Albany veteran and the New York Assembly Minority Leader.
We know that the national Republican Party dwarfed Democratic spending: for the Dems, this is what we had
DNC (IE & 441)
And this is what the Red Elephants enjoyed:
National Republican Trust PAC
Our Country Deserves Better PAC
National Right to Life
RNC (transfer down & 441)
And we know that after all this...Scott Murphy, likely as not, surged from 21 points down to actually win the election.
He's proven to be an excellent candidate, and regardless of what happens, we'd be lucky to have him on the ballot in November 2010. Additionally, a small army of activists, bloggers, volunteers, staffers, and national Democratic institutions worked tirelessly to put this underdog of underdogs on top, and now he is on top.
But last night's results are also testament to the pathetic shape of today's Republican Party. Even in an election which saw the deck stacked heavily in their favor, they keep finding ways to screw up.
On the web:
TAP "Protect NY-20" ActBlue Page