14 April 2009

Tedisco vs. Murphy Endgame

The special election to fill the seat for the 20th Congressional District in New York should have been over by now, but most observers now believe that a resolution is still weeks away. That's because the margin separating Scott Murphy and Jim Tedisco is so narrow that there's reason for each man to demand that every single absentee ballot be counted -- except the ones they're challenging, of course. It looks like military ballots may decide the election, but there's a problem with those. From what I've read, most election authorities recommend that ballots be sent to the military within 45 days of the deadline for counting absentee ballots for a given election. New York State law seems to allow only a 30 day window.

Tedisco has asked for an extension to allow the anticipated last few military ballots to come in. His supporters and Republican talkers and bloggers nationwide seem to think that the New York law is designed to minimize military votes and undermine Republican candidates, the perhaps-outdated assumption being that military voters lean Republican. Also, it doesn't hurt Tedisco to make this demand, because it'll allow his people to accuse the Democrats of trying to suppress the votes of the troops if Murphy's lawyers resist.

Objectively speaking, in light of the consensus of recommendations, it seems unfair that NY soldiers have comparatively limited time to return absentee ballots. But as far as I can tell, none of those recommendations have the force of law, while the state's election rules do. The election authorities would be within their rights to turn Tedisco down. But it also ought to be possible to determine whether he could realistically expect more military ballots to come in, based on the number of district natives in the military, their voting patterns, and the number of ballots already received. At the very least, if it appears that the state law imposed an unreasonable hardship on military voters, and that hardship made a difference in the outcome of the election, New Yorkers ought to consider changing the law.

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