Coleman Franken Redux in New York?

Here we go again? Yesterday’s special election in New York’s upstate 20th Congressional District may provoke feelings from sympathy to schadenfreude in Minnesotans.

The first round of counting in the election, which was necessary because the incumbent Democrat, Rep. Kirstin Gillibrand, was appointed the Senate to fill out Hillary Clinton’s term, ended yesterday with Democrat Scott Murphy clinging to a 65-vote lead over Republican Jim Tedisco.

And the balance will very likely be decided (unless it isn’t) by the counting of up to 10,000 absentee ballots.

The race had received a good bit of national focus as a harbinger of the political direction of the country. The seat had been dominated by Republicans until Gillibrand, a pro-gun rights Dem, won it. Early polls showed the better-known Republican Tedisco with a big lead and Repubs were hoping for an our-party-is-on-the-way-back storyline. Pres. Obama and Gillibrand campaigned for Murphy. Murphy’s support for and Tedisco’s opposition to Obamanomics made the race a referendum on that big national argument. But such harbinger/weathervane angles are always overdone in off-year elections. NY-20 is, after all, just one 435th of the nation.

Then the results came in and, as you can imagine, many analysts have begun noting the similarity to a certain still-not-over Senate race.

I don’t know whether Marc Elias and Ben Ginsberg — the respective Dem and Repub D.C.-based election lawyers who have been handling things for their parties’ guys in Minnesota, just found their next case. Without question, the Murphy and Tedisco legal teams will be seeking advice from those who have experienced Coleman-Franken.

The NY GOP sought and received an injunction impounding voting machines, ballots, absentee ballot envelopes, and ordering that the counting of absentee ballots be done in central locations rather than precincts. This is a smart move by the judge, who may well have understood that the Minnesota practice of counting absentee ballots at precincts all over the state became one source of considerable mess and controversy in Recountland.

The NYTimes reported this morning that 10,055 absentee ballots were issued and 5,907 received so far. A State Elections Board official said the counting of the absentee ballots may not begin until April 6.

It’s quite possible that the counting of the absentee ballots will create a clear outcome. If not, our best wishes to the voters of NY-20.

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by John E Iacono on 04/01/2009 - 11:46 am.

    I wish — wish — wish that the courts had done the central location thing about the absentee ballots here. It would have saved SO much time and rancor.

  2. Submitted by David Brown on 04/01/2009 - 04:04 pm.

    John,

    I wish I were as confident as you. I have come to believe that those who are ideologically driven choose that path because they hope it will protect them against the “dangerous,” “evil” world in which they find themselves. When that in which they have invested so much faith appears to fail in the real world, they must look for some external causal influence (it can’t possibly be a failure of the ideology!), so they begin invoking the kind of conspiracy theories and general denial we have seen throughout the Minnesota Senate recount and contest process.

    Those people, if they were capable of both seeing and telling the truth, would say, “I’ve got it straight, don’t confuse me with the facts.”

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