ALBANY—Judge James Brands just ruled that most of the over 1,200 contested absentee ballots in the race to replace Kirsten Gillibrand in Congress were objected to improperly based on discrepancies in their applications. This means many more ballots will be counted.
Henry Berger, an attorney for Democratic candidate Scott Murphy, argued this morning that these ballots should all be counted because boards of election already issued them. Any problems with those ballots – from an invalid reason for the request to a missing date – cannot be challenged because the determination was already made by elections officials to send them out.
Two Republican attorneys, James Walsh representing Assemblyman Jim Tedisco and John Ciampoli representing State Chairman Joe Mondello, disputed this in court. Ciampoli called a system advocated by Berger "logistically impossible" and said "that's not the process that's been envisioned for years."
Brands cited the case of Jacobs v. Biamonte and wrote that "either candidate or petitioner shall be entitled to a list of applicants for absentee ballots for the March 31, 2009 special election but shall not be entitled to the underlying form itself."
This seems to mean that many of the objections lodged by both sides related to inconsistencies in the applications are null. No immediate word on what happens moving forward.
Brands also ruled that for ballots which were objected to by one campaign but deemed acceptable by both county election commissioners, the vote would be opened and counted, with a photocopy made for further review. This is known as the O'Keefe process.
Walsh argued against this, noting that "once we burst it, then it become a question of numbers" and not about the validity of the vote.
UPDATE: The Murphy campaign just sent along this statement.
"We're once again pleased with today's court ruling and we look forward to the board reviewing and counting these challenged ballots as soon as possible," said Murphy's attorney, Henry T. Berger. "We've always maintained that the people of the 20th Congressional District deserve to have their votes counted in a timely manner, so they can be represented in Congress as quickly as possible in these tough economic times. We are confident that once all the absentee ballots are counted, Scott Murphy will win this election."
And Tedisco's campaign sent this:
"We've received the judge's order and are preparing to make our case before him on Monday that this election should be decided by the voters of the 20th Congressional District and not be unduly influenced by residents of New York City," said Tedisco attorney James Walsh.
Here's Brands' ruling: