Judge in Tight U.S. House Race Declines to Order Tenney Winner

house race new york
Rep. Anthony Brindisi  (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth, File)

The winner of the ultra-tight 22nd Congressional District race in New York remained unclear Tuesday, as a state judge ordered county boards of elections to fix errors made when first counting ballots.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi and his Republican challenger, former U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney, are separated by perhaps as few as a dozen votes and remain at odds over about 1,500 disputed ballots and several dozen uncounted ballots found recently by Chenango County.

In his order Tuesday, the judge denied Tenney’s request to declare her the winner.

A string of record-keeping problems — particularly over records of candidates objecting to ballots — has led to confusion over vote totals.

State Judge Scott DelConte ordered the boards of election to launch a “complete inspection” to account for every single submitted ballot.

And the judge has ordered county boards of election to fix all errors concerning disputed ballots and envelopes. He said if errors can’t be fixed, the election boards must count the ballots again and give candidates a chance to observe.

DelConte also outlined a specific process for how county boards of election should handle disputed affidavit or absentee ballots: Election workers must open the envelope, make a photocopy of the ballot, place the photocopy in the envelope and write who made the objection, why, and how the election board ruled on the envelope.

The judge also said that boards of election shall count “every single” uncounted ballot.

The judge’s ruling didn’t set a deadline for counties to fix ballot issues. He scheduled a compliance conference for counsel on Dec. 18.

DelConte expressed frustration about a race that’s featured counties sending in shifting and, at times, incomplete vote tallies; dozens of ballots belatedly discovered uncounted; and an issue with critical records on ballot objections being lost when the sticky notes on which they had been written lost their adhesiveness.

Brindisi’s campaign had asked the judge to order counties to audit some results and provide records about ballot objections. Tenney’s team, in turn, lambasted Brindisi’s request as “unprecedented” and “time-consuming.”

Tenney has said in recent media appearances that she wants to count all votes. But her attorneys asked the judge to allow counties to certify her as the winner without counting the uncounted Chenango County ballots.

DelConte made clear that he wants to make sure that votes are counted and voters’ rights are protected.

“Both candidates, of course, argue for relief that tactically presents the best option for their ultimate victory,” he wrote. “However, the role of the Court is not to help one side, or the other, emerge as the winner. It is, instead, to enforce the law, ensure that every voter’s right is safeguarded, and to maintain confidence in the electoral process.”


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