Nearly a month after Election Day, the constituents of New York’s 22nd congressional district still don’t know who will be representing them in the House of Representatives for the next two years.
The ever-changing updates as to who’s leading have been curious to watch, to say the least.
Republican Claudia Tenney, who was unseated by Democrat Anthony Brindisi in 2018, had been ahead by 28,422 votes on Election Day. But a few weeks later, Brindisi suddenly declared victory after overcoming that massive deficit to seemingly edge out Tenney by 13 votes, thanks to his overwhelming lead among mail-in and absentee voters.
The thrill of victory didn’t last long. As of Monday morning, Tenney leads by 13 votes in their rematch thanks to a revision in the vote count out of Herkimer County.
So … what’s going on?
The race was widely expected to be one of the tightest and most hotly contested in the country. Per the Campaign Finance Institute, more independent expenditures were made on behalf of Tenney and Brindisi than any other pair of House candidates save for those in New Mexico’s 2nd congressional district. It has more than lived up to those expectations.
Prior to Herkimer County’s revisions, Brindisi’s sudden lead prompted some commentators to suggest that NY-22 was being “stolen” from Republicans. A RedState writer claimed that “a Democrat judge stepped in and put his stamp of approval on enough rejected ballots to make it happen.” HotAir’s Jazz Shaw complained that “a Democrat judge… miraculously ‘found’ enough ballots that he felt were okay.”
That Democratic judge, state Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte, has indicated that he will be making determinations about whether to count ballots that were initially rejected — a power that the Tenney campaign disputes — but most of that work has yet to be done. DelConte ruled that both campaigns would have until 5 p.m. today to file motions related to the disputed ballots.
There are many issues with the ballots being argued over by attorneys representing the Tenney and Brindisi campaigns. Some 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 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. When Brindisi was winning last week, he declared victory. Now that Tenney has pulled ahead, she has filed a motion requesting that DelConte allow the eight counties in her district to certify the results of the election by the end of the day.
Eventually, we’ll have a winner in NY-22, and it is possible that a dubious ruling from DelConte will cost Tenney the election. But both victory laps and charges of a “stolen” election remain premature for now.