(Additional reporting and analysis on this story by looseheadprop and Teddy Partridge.)
With yesterday’s ruling in Dutchess County by Judge James Brand that the counting of paper ballots can begin tomorrow, the team behind Republican Jim Tedisco is scrambling to revise their strategy—and that means Italian food.
First, a little
As soon as the Tedisco team realized the race against Democrat Scott Murphy was going to be close, they moved to complicate the counting process. As reported here last week, a motion was filed on behalf of Tedisco that sought to block the certification of Scott Murphy and/or require the certification of Tedisco no matter the Election Day vote totals. The motion was a grand overreach that sought to obscure and bias the entire vote counting process.
The election proved excruciatingly close. The initial count and subsequent recanvassing had the lead changing hands a number of times, but neither candidate has opened a lead of more than a couple hundred votes. (As of this writing, Murphy leads by 83 votes.)
The morning after the election, last Wednesday, the GOP sent out a fundraising letter, promising a legal fight to prevent Murphy from representing NY-20. A protracted legal fight—ala Norm Coleman—if necessary.
The Tedisco campaign also started making heavy reference to absentee and military ballots—making that essentially non-existent distinction—in an effort to prevent any counting of ballots already in the hands of NYS election officials.
Normally, the day counting of these paper ballot begins and the day all mail-in ballots are due is only a day apart, but because of the narrow window of this special election and a dispute about a ballot line, the overseas absentee ballots went out later than usual, and so, as ordered by the court, all votes still have to be postmarked by election day, but overseas ballots are allowed an extra week to arrive back in New York. Thus, counting is allowed to begin on April 8; overseas ballots must be returned by April 13.
Tedisco’s team went to court to halt any counting of ballots on hand until after the day all ballots are due, specifically, April 14. As mentioned, the court ruled counting begins on the originally stated day, April 8—but why would the GOP care if votes on hand were counted tomorrow or a week from tomorrow?
As reported by The Albany Project, residents of NY-20 started receiving phone calls as early as last Thursday—purportedly an exit poll—asking if respondents had voted by absentee ballot, and then asking who received their vote. Some reported that these calls came from the Tedisco camp.
It is not a leap to say that this was not a randomized anonymous poll, but a deliberate ploy to identify the names of absentee voters and the vote that each ballot contained.
This is not just academic. Names associated with votes gives the Tedisco team a list of ballots to challenge before they are opened. And it is much, much easier to successfully challenge a ballot before it is opened and its vote is officially known.
Does all of this sound eerily familiar? It should. Republicans have sought to complicate, confuse, prolong, and challenge close elections as a matter of strategy for years—certainly since Florida’s 2000 count. And, as reported here yesterday, one of the architects of the Republican obstruction during the 2000 recount, Roger Stone, was spotted in a popular Troy, NY, Italian restaurant perusing spreadsheets with a group of suits.
Over the weekend, John Sweeney, the former US Representative for NY-20, was arrested in the area for felony DWI. Sweeney, who has a home in the Clifton Park, NY, was Stone’s on-the-ground general for the infamous “Brooks Brothers Riot” during the Florida recount.
The next day, an Albany Project tipster snapped a photo of Stone with some of the same suits at another Italian restaurant, this one in Clifton Park.
Which is all to say, if I were in the Tedisco camp, hey Roger, less eating, more cheating!
Because Tedisco and Stone have their work cut out for them. Counting of absentee ballots begins, as is required by NYS Election Law Section 8-412, tomorrow—eight days after the election. Overseas ballots are due in by April 13. Since the counting will take weeks, these ballots will be included in the absentee count.
Scott Murphy has made it clear that he wants all votes counted.
Both FiveThirtyEight and Campaign Diaries (via The Albany Project) report that the distribution of absentee ballots favors Murphy. It can also no longer be assumed that military ballots always favor the Republican.
If history is our guide, Stone is likely to continue his phony polling and other disruptive measures. If you live in NY-20 and receive a call claiming to be an “exit poll,” or if the caller starts asking you about the March 31 special election, Jim Tedisco, or Scott Murphy, we want to know.
First, try to record the call or save it on you phone machine or in voicemail.
Second, email us at proploosehead at g mail dot com—looseheadprop will take a closer look and report back.