Absentee Ballot Counting Begins Today in NY’s 23rd Congressional District

Election officials in New York’s congressional district 23 are beginning their count of the remaining absentee ballots today and the numbers do not look good for Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman.  Although more than 10,000 absentee ballots were mailed out, the Watertown Daily Times notes that only 7,419 were returned. Here are the county figures (source here):

Absentees sent

Absentees returned

Clinton 1,583 980
Essex 795 596
Franklin 885 481
Fulton 413 251
Hamilton 331 241
Jefferson 2,299 1,308
Lewis 565 299
Madison 1,058 785
Oneida 320 209
Oswego 1,765 1,145
St. Lawrence 1,727 1,124
Total 11,741 7,419

Hoffman currently trails the Democratic Bill Owens by 3,176.  Assuming that Republican Dede Scozzafava gets close to  5% of the absentee votes, about what she pulled in the general election, that would give her 370 absentee votes. Hoffman would then need 5,061 votes, or 72% of the remaining absentee vote, to win, by my back of the envelope calculations. That’s almost certainly not going to happen.  Some of Hoffman’s supporters argue that he will benefit from receiving a large proportion of the military vote, particularly since Fort Drum is located in the district.  However, as the Watertown Daily Times points out, according to the county elections commissioner from Jefferson County, in which Fort Drum, is located, only 605 military ballots were requested, and only 51 returned, from that county.   So Hoffman supporters better not be counting on the military to bail their candidate out.

However, as I noted in the earlier post, the key question becomes how much does Hoffman have to cut into Owens’ lead to justify a recount?  Does he need to pull within 100 votes?  500?  In part, the decision may turn on the types of voting machines in use across the 23rd district – some voting processes are inherently more prone to miscount than are others.  I don’t have any idea what is used in most of the congressional district, but that could factor into Hoffman’s decision.

I’ll be on later tonight with updated figures from the 23rd district, posted as an addendum to the blog.

First update (3:17 PM):  According to the Watertown Daily Times, three counties have finished counting, and 20% of Jefferson County (I think the largest in the district) is done. At this point Hoffman has picked up 47.1% of the vote – not nearly enough to close the gap.  Owens is only getting 32.4%, but Scozzafavo is pulling in 20.5%.  Remember, most of these ballots were cast before she dropped out. At this point, with Jefferson County’s partial returns included, Owens’ lead is down to 2,940, but there are only 5,640 absentee ballots left to be counted.

Update (3:35):   It appears that portions of the 23rd district are using new digital voting machines, part of a state-based program to upgrade voting technology to comply with the federal Help America Vote act.  Several counties, however, used the older pull lever system.  I have no idea what the procedure for recounting votes cast in a digital machine is, but you can be sure both sides will be looking at this closely. If it is anything like my computer, the opportunities for mischief are endless.  Cue the conspiracy advocates!

Update 9:45 pm.  It appears that counting/reporting is done for the night.  According to the Watertown Daily Times, three counties – Oneida, Madison and Hamilton – have counted their absentee votes and reported tallies.  This is where things stand as of tonight (absentee ballots in parentheses).

Owens Hoffman Dede
Clinton 10536 (0) 7530 (0) 686 (0)
Essex 3718 (0) 3175 (0) 432 (0)
Franklin 5,125 (0) 4,589 (0) 247(0)
Fulton 1969 (0) 2489 (0) 676 (0)
Hamilton 888 (60) 1184 (85) 293 (87)
Jefferson 10460 (115) 10884 (113) 1179 (132)
Lewis 2169 (0) 2676 (0) 282 (0)
Madison 8087 (203) 8985 (170) 602 (122)
Oneida 2024 (219) 2779 (446) 362 (97)
Oswego 11000 (0) 12748 (0) 950 (0)
St. Lawrn 12987 (0) 8748 (0) 1,194 (0)
Total 69,560 66,601 7,331
% of vote 48.5 46.4 5.1

At this point it looks like Owens will win by roughly 2,000 votes – not close enough, in my view, for Hoffman to ask for a recount.  There are several of the largest counties that still need to report, but one of them – St. Lawrence – went strongly for Owens.   The other big one – Jefferson – is running roughly 50/50 between Owens and Hoffman, with about 27% of absentee ballots counted.   I’ll update with a new post tomorrow.

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