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NY officials suddenly find more uncounted ballots cast in hotly contested election

The 2020 elections have made clear the relevance of the old adage about it’s not who votes that matters as much as who counts the votes. And nowhere is that more the case than in upstate New York.

There, Democratic incumbent Rep. Anthony Brindisi and Republican Claudia Tenney, who lost to Brindisi two years ago, have been in a see-saw battle for the state’s 22nd Congressional District.

Tenney led by more than 28,000 votes on election night. Then, a couple of weeks later, Brindisi claimed victory after more mail-in ballots were tallied. His lead was 13 votes. But as the counting continued, Tenney retook the lead by 12 votes – out of roughly 318,000 cast.

That was where the race stood last week, when election officials in Chenango County, just south of Syracuse, found 55 ballots that had been previously uncounted. Among those ballots, 11 were cast by unregistered voters.

Local media reported on Monday that officials in that same county found 12 more votes – in a drawer – that had yet to be counted.

The case is under review by state Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte, who is expected to make a ruling soon. The judge’s involvement has raised questions. Under New York’s partisan system for electing judges DelConte was nominated by Democrats in 2016, but when he ran again in 2018, he had the backing of the Democratic, Conservative and Independence parties.

Before the latest dozen votes were discovered, Syracuse.com had reported that 809 ballots were being disputed before DelConte. Tenney’s lawyers, according to the website, want the judge to certify the results now, even though the final count is unknown. Brindisi’s legal team seeks a recount, but only a partial one – in areas, the judge noted, that are politically favorable to Brindisi. Syracuse.com notes that Brindisi is challenging 533 of the 809 disputed ballots.

National Review columnist Isaac Schorr recently summed up the problems with voting and ballots in this race:

“Some (ballots) were dropped off at polling places as far away as New York City and Albany. Others were rejected but did not have the reason why indicated on the ballot, as is mandated by state law. In some counties, sticky notes with the explanations for the ballots’ rejection were attached to the ballots instead. To make matters worse, many of those sticky notes fell off and have since disappeared. Moreover, local election officials have been unable to say whether some ballots have already been counted or not.”

“What we’re seeing then,” Schorr continued, “is not any one party attempting to ‘steal’ the election, but two parties using the legal means at their disposal to win an election that has been tainted by the mismanagement of local officials and asininity of New York State’s election laws.”

So, it’s not just who does the counting that matters, but how they count the votes as well. Meanwhile, few could blame people for losing faith in a system this convoluted.

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