ALBANY—It's rapidly becoming statistically impossible for Assemblyman Jim Tedisco to win a seat in Congress.
My figures are inexact—the calculations here are based on both official Board of Elections numbers, and on conversations with election officials and both campaigns—but the math looks pretty conclusive.
Here's what I've come up with:
On Election Night, Democrat Scott Murphy finished with about a 60-vote lead over Tedisco, with no absentee ballots counted. Recanvassing of mechanical machines put Tedisco ahead by 66 votes. Out of a total of about 7,200 absentee ballots that were received by the Board of Elections, there are only 800 left to count, according to elections officials and lawyers for both campaigns. They are sitting before a judge.
Now Murphy's lead is something approaching 400 votes. (This official tally from the State Board of Elections Thursday morning had Murphy up by 365; not included are what state elections officials say are another 38 votes from Saratoga County and another six from Columbia County from canvassing that took place today.
The updated spreadsheet should be out this afternoon.)
(UPDATE: As of 4 p.m., Murphy's lead stands, officially, at 401 votes.)
So over the course of counting around 6,400 absentee ballots, Murphy's lead increased by about 466 votes. That means he won roughly 53.6 percent of all the absentee ballots counted.
It's pretty safe to conclude that overall, there were more Murphy votes that weren't counted based in part on the fact that the Tedisco campaign made the most challenges.
So, to the 800 uncounted ballots that are left: Tedisco needs to pick up 400 votes if he's going to win at this point, meaning he'll need the margin to be 600 to 200. That's 75 percent.
(Tedisco's campaign is seeking to throw out some of the remaining ballots due to discrepancies over primary residence, but for every vote they throw out, even if it is a vote for Murphy, the percentage of those ballots he needs to win creeps higher.)
Starting this morning, attorneys from both sides zipped through about 200 ballots at the State Board of Elections headquarters in Albany. These ballots were laid aside after both partisan elections commissioners in a given county agreed to either count or invalidate them, but one of the campaigns objected. The single biggest reason ballots were challenged had to do with people who checked the wrong area of their absentee ballot; voters were supposed to check a box over their candidate's name, but many checked a blank square immediately to the right. Still other voters checked the same candidate on multiple party lines (for example, voting for Tedisco on both the Republican and Conservative lines). By mutual agreement, all ballots in each of these categories were counted.
Maybe it was the apple cider donuts everyone was picking at (thanks, Golden Harvest Farms in Valatie!) or maybe it was recognition of the facts above—in any case, the mood was jovial. John Ciampoli, an attorney for Republican Chairman Joe Mondello, jokingly chastised elections officials for not providing coffee, when he (along with attorneys Henry Berger and James Walsh) provided entertainment.
For example, Berger and Ciampoli would occasionally cite a precedent over which they had argued against each other in court.
"I think I won that case, John," Berger said.
"But who won the election?" Ciampoli replied.
I sat through the canvass of Columbia County. Fifty-one ballots were reviewed. Of those, a total of 19 votes were recorded for Murphy, compared to 13 for Tedisco. Three were deemed still objectionable, and will be sent to a judge for review on Monday. The rest were thrown out by mutual agreement.
One ballot contained a message urging Murphy on to victory. Ballots with extraneous writing such as this—because it can be used to identify a voter—are disqualified by mutual agreement.
"C'mon John, every vote is sacred," Berger joked.
"Every vote is sacred, but some votes are more sacred than others," Ciampoli replied.
Just now, Tyler Brown, a Tedisco spokesman, sent me the following comment:
"We're continuing to count the votes because we believe that an election this close should be decided by the voters of the 20th Congressional district."