Election Night Last Tuesday, with 93% of the vote counted Doug Hoffman was down 5,335 votes with and he had barely won his stronghold in conservative Oswego County. Hoffman did the right thing and conceded the special election in the NY 23rd Congressional district. Democrat Bill Owens was seated in Congress (based on the Hoffman concession) even though NY State had yet to certify the election. Among his first acts was to vote for the Obamacare bill with the government option even though he promised that he would vote against any bill with a government option.
The Central New York Post standard is now reporting that some of the initial vote counts in Hoffman’s Oswego county stronghold were very wrong and the conservative’s votes were were under-counted:
Now a recanvassing in the 11-county district shows that Owens’ lead has narrowed to 3,026 votes over Hoffman, 66,698 to 63,672, according to the latest unofficial results from the state Board of Elections.
In Oswego County, where Hoffman was reported to lead by only 500 votes with 93 percent of the vote counted election night, inspectors found Hoffman actually won by 1,748 votes — 12,748 to 11,000.
The new vote totals mean the race will be decided by absentee ballots, of which about 10,200 were distributed, said John Conklin, communications director for the state Board of Elections.
Under a new law in New York that extended deadlines, military and overseas ballots received by this coming Monday (and postmarked by Nov. 2) will be counted. Standard absentee ballots had to be returned this past Monday.
Conklin said the state sent a letter to the House Clerk last week explaining that no winner had been determined in the 23rd District, and therefore the state had not certified the election. But the letter noted that Owens still led by about 3,000 votes, and that the special election was not contested — two factors that legally allowed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to swear in Owens on Friday.
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“We sent a letter to the clerk laying out the totals,” Conklin said. “The key is that Hoffman conceded, which means the race is not contested. However, all ballots will be counted, and if the result changes, Owens will have to be removed.”
…Now Hoffman, who campaigned against the health care reform bill, is carefully watching as the 23rd District race tightens and he is left to wonder if he conceded too soon.
“I don’t know if we would have conceded on election night,” Rob Ryan, Hoffman’s campaign spokesman, said Wednesday while discussing the latest results of the recanvassing. “I’m someone who doesn’t like to look back. But would we have taken longer to make a decision on election night? Probably, if we knew it was only 3,000 votes making the difference.”
Ryan, while acknowledging that Hoffman’s chances of pulling off a come-from-behind victory are still remote, said the campaign is looking at its legal options.
“We’re basically watching and waiting,” Ryan said. “We’ve been looking very closely at the recanvass. We’re going to see how this week shapes up, and then we’re going to determine what to do.”
Ryan said an important factor in the decision to concede was the unexpected — and erroneous — close vote in Oswego County, where polls had Hoffman with a double digit percentage point lead heading into Election Day.
“That’s the thing that threw us off,” Ryan said.
Oswego County elections officials blame the mistakes on “chaos” in their call-in center that included a phone system foul-up and inspectors who read numbers incorrectly when phoning in results. Of 245 races in the county — not including the congressional and court races — 84 had incorrect totals reported election night.
In the congressional race, more votes were cast in Oswego County than any other in the 11-county district.
The district’s second biggest voter turnout was in Jefferson County, where Hoffman also has benefited from a turnaround since election night, gaining about 700 votes. Owens led Hoffman by 300 votes on the final election night tally. But after recanvassing, Hoffman now leads by 424 votes, 10,884 to 10,460.
Jerry Eaton, the Republican elections commissioner for Jefferson County, said inspectors found a problem in four districts where Hoffman’s vote total was mistakenly entered as zero.
“Hoffman definitely gained votes where he didn’t have them,” Eaton said.
Jefferson County, home of Fort Drum and the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, distributed 2,299 absentee ballots for the special election. As of this week, 1,303 had been returned but not counted, Eaton said. He said the county will begin counting the absentee ballots early next week.
Conklin, of the state Board of Elections, said officials did not have updated absentee ballot totals from the other counties.
Having started my College Career at the State University of NY at Oswego, I suspect that there was nothing nefarious about the counting mistake. Not only did the school have no math requirement, but at the time it was rated the number one drinking school in the country (number two in Sunsets). Trust in those conditions math mistakes happen.
Don’t start celebrating a Hoffman comeback yet. While it makes sense that most of the 10,000+ absentee votes will probably go to Hoffman, the majority of the ballots were filled out while it was still a three person race, so it is very doubtful that Hoffman will be able to close the 3,000 vote margin via the absentee votes. But then again you never know.