Not so fast: N.Y.-23 vote margin narrows

Rep. Bill Owens (D) was sworn into Congress last week after Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman conceded in New York's special election, but a report today says Owens's margin of victory is steadily narrowing.

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Hoffman conceded the race after receiving news that he trailed Owens by 5,335 votes with 93 percent of the vote counted on election night. And Hoffman had barely won in Oswego County, which was thought to be a Hoffman stronghold.

But the Syracuse Post-Standard reported Thursday that votes may have been undercounted in Oswego County and other areas of the 23rd district.


More from the Post-Standard:

Now a recanvassing in the 11-county district shows that Owens’ lead has narrowed to 3,026 votes over Hoffman, 66,698 to 63,672, according to the latest unofficial results from the state Board of Elections.

In Oswego County, where Hoffman was reported to lead by only 500 votes with 93 percent of the vote counted election night, inspectors found Hoffman actually won by 1,748 votes — 12,748 to 11,000.

The new vote totals mean the race will be decided by absentee ballots, of which about 10,200 were distributed, said John Conklin, communications director for the state Board of Elections. ...

Conklin said the state sent a letter to the House Clerk last week explaining that no winner had been determined in the 23rd district, and therefore the state had not certified the election. But the letter noted that Owens still led by about 3,000 votes, and that the special election was not contested — two factors that legally allowed Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to swear in Owens on Friday.

"We sent a letter to the clerk laying out the totals," Conklin said. "The key is that Hoffman conceded, which means the race is not contested. However, all ballots will be counted, and if the result changes, Owens will have to be removed."

Owens was sworn in on Friday before the House voted on healthcare reform legislation Saturday night. Owens and Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), a special election winner also sworn in last week, played a critical role in passing the legislation. The House approved the bill by a 220-215 margin with the support of one Republican, Rep. Joseph Cao (La.) 

It still remains unlikely that Hoffman wins the race. With just over 10,000 ballots distributed and Hoffman still trailing by 3,000 votes, he would have to take just over 65 percent of absentee ballots. That is assuming all 10,000-plus ballots will be returned. Hoffman campaign manager Rob Ryan also acknowledged to the Post-Standard that the prospects of victory remained dim. 

"When people look back at this race, it was a remote possibility that Doug Hoffman would be a contender," Ryan said. "But miracles do happen."

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