Those of us who live in the Capital Region of New York State have been “treated” to a series of very nasty campaign ads for (or rather, against) Scott Murphy and Jim Tedisco. These gentlemen are running a seat in the United States House of Representatives, representing the 20th Congressional district in New York State. The seat was up for grabs since Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed to become the junior Senator from New York by Governor David Paterson. The Senate seat was open because the previous Senator, Hillary Clinton, was confirmed Secretary of State. (It’s the government version of musical chairs.)
Today was the date of the special election to fill the House seat. The vote counts have been tabulated, and the results are… interesting.
Fortunately, there are as many as 5,907 absentee ballots that may have been cast. The last of these ballots will be counted when the mail truck arrives at the State Board of Elections office on April 13. I don’t have enough knowledge of the district to predict how the absentee ballots are likely to lean towards one candidate or the other. But it’s likely that the race will still be very, very close once the final numbers are tallied.
A race this close mirrors the Senate race in Minnesota, which is still ongoing, almost three months after the start of the 111th Congress of which either Al Franken or Norm Coleman is a member. Franken currently leads by only 225 votes out of more than 2,500,000 cast.
The sad truth in the Franken-Coleman debacle is that the true winner of that election will never be known. Voting, for such a simple idea (put an ‘X’ in a box), is almost impossible to get completely right. Assuming for a second there’s no intentional fraud, ballots can have stray marks, spelling errors, or printing mistakes that one candidate or the other will say makes the ballots invalid. Minnesota seems to me to have one of the most “normal” tests for which votes count — the will of the voter trumps most ballot irregularities. So a write-in vote for “A. Frankin” or “that comedian guy” would be a tick-mark in Franken’s column.
Thanks to Bush versus Gore in 2000, these elections now must be determined by the courts. Bush was a terrible precedent. Not a legal precedent, of course, but an expectation that a candidate who is on the losing end of a close race can sue their way to victory. The citizens of Minnesota have been deprived of their due representation in Congress for three months. The results have been clear for some time now.
When candidates need to effectively disenfranchise their constituents in order to get elected, something is very wrong with the system.
Uncertainty in the collected data, however, are not the fault of any of these men. Where there are large collections of data, there will be errors by the nature of the process. The inclusion of absolute ballot rules as to what counts and what doesn’t should be set well before the election (and should not be disputable by any candidate after the fact), but there are no absolutes in politics. And all of this assumes that there’s no ill will on behalf of a polling station supervisor or a county board of elections member who lets his partisanship stand in the way of his civic duty.
I hope that the absentee ballots determine the Murphy-Tedisco election definitively either way, but I have a feeling we’re in for a long ride.
I live in the 21st District, so I get nothing out of today’s election except the replacement of campaign commercials with ads for Viagra and Axe body spray. Sadly this is the most desirable outcome of all.