A court ruling Wednesday on special election absentee ballot challenges dealt another setback to Republican Jim Tedisco.
Tedisco is counting on absentees to eke out a victory over Democrat Scott Murphy in New York’s 20th Congressional District.
A justice in the Dutchess County branch of the Supreme Court ruled that some of the reasons the Tedisco camp has been using for challenging absentee ballots are invalid.
That ruling, paired with fewer Tedisco ballots than expected among absentees counted in his stronghold, Saratoga County, put the trend of the count in Murphy’s favor.
The March 31 race ended up too close to call on election night and has come down to the roughly 6,700 absentee ballots.
The validity of certain categories of those ballots has been the source of partisan bickering during the past week of counting, resulting in more than 1,200 challenges. Challenged ballots have been set aside for further judicial review.
Justice James Brand sided largely with the Murphy campaign Wednesday, saying the counties should count ballots approved by both Republican and Democrat commissioners on the counties’ boards of elections, even if one campaign objected to the ballot.
Tedisco’s campaign had tried to argue that those ballots should be held out of the count.
Brand did say that the ballot envelopes for those contested votes should be preserved for future review with “a notation that an objection has been made but not sustained.”
Brand also ruled that the campaigns cannot access application forms for absentee ballots, limiting their ability to challenge the decisions by counties to grant the absentee ballots in the first place.
That position was supported by Murphy’s attorneys, but opposed by Tedisco’s legal team.
Brand gave the Tedisco campaign more time to provide evidence supporting its argument that was illegal for voters with multiple residences to vote in the special election if they primarily reside outside the upstate district.
Another hearing is set for April 20.
The Tedisco campaign has defended its ballot challenges, with spokesman Tyler Brown saying, “The ballots of hundreds of New York City voters should not be deciding this election.”
“The Dutchess County Supreme Court once again sided with the congressional campaign of Scott Murphy today by casting serious doubt on the legitimacy of the vast majority of challenges launched by the Tedisco campaign,” the Murphy campaign said in statement responding to the ruling.
Murphy led Tedisco by 86 votes as of 4 p.m. Wednesday, according to an unofficial tally kept by the New York Board of Elections.