What the GOP might be up to in NY-20

Those who follow NY-20 must have seen the latest headlines: Scott Murphy has increased his lead to 365 votes as Warren County counted some of the challenged ballots, making it even more difficult to figure out how in the world Tedisco could pull off a comeback.

The second recent development: Yesterday, Judge Brands overturned his own ruling from last week sided with Tedisco, ruling that the GOP was allowed to challenge ballots on a case-by-case basis. (Many of the GOP's challenges concern voters who have a second residence outside of the district.)

What's very puzzling is this: Now that Tedisco is trailing, he should want more ballots to be included for him to have a shot at pulling a comeback. The more challenged ballots are tossed out, the higher a percentage of those that are included he will need to win.

Sure, Tedisco is unlikely to win challenged ballots anyway, but that's secondary to the basic point that it is mathematically impossible for him to win without many new ballots being included since, well, he is currently trailing. (This is the same situation as in Minnesota, where Norm Coleman wants to throw in thousands of new ballots to have a shot at taking the lead.)

This leads to an obvious question: Why would Tedisco's lawyers try to stop challenged ballots from being included?! One possible answer: They now have bigger fish to fry than Tedisco's victory.

Campaign Diaries argues that, even if the GOP knows that Tedisco is a sure bet to lose, they might be prolonging the legal battle in the hope of setting precedents they can use in future elections:

[That hypothesis] is that Republicans have given up on victory and that they are only looking to establish legal precedents that could serve them in the future.

As was reported in detail last week, GOP watchers in some counties systematically objected to absentee ballots from voters who hold a secondary residence in New York City and in Florida, as well as those sent in by college students. On its face, this is a frivolous challenge as voters who have more than one residence have the right to choose in which district they will cast their ballot; but Judge Brands has essentially questioned that premise by ruling that a case-by-case examination of absentee ballot applications are in order.

It is more than probable that Tedisco will lose even if the GOP's legal strategy is successful; but for Brands (who has a history of boosting GOP candidates in election contests) to rule on the side of GOP lawyers on a number of ballots they want thrown out could lay the groundwork for Republicans to later challenge the eligibility of voters with residency ties to Democratic areas, the eligibility of students who come from other parts of the state or of the country or the eligibility or 91-year old woman who write that they are too old to go to the polls on their absentee application form.

The basic point here: It looks increasingly certain that Scott Murphy will replace Kirsten Gillibrand in the House. But that does not mean that the legal battle that is unfolding in NY-20 is not consequential. For the judge to rule that there is reason to object to ballots from voters who have a residence outside of the district might not overturn Murphy's lead, but it could have important ramifications in future elections!

Tags: NY-20 (all tags)


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