Murphy Now Leads by 168 Votes

Posted April 14, 2009 at 4:56pm

Updated: April 15, 11:34 a.m.

After a wild day of absentee vote counting on Tuesday, which notably saw Republicans challenge the ballot of appointed-Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D), Democrat Scott Murphy made gains Wednesday morning in New York’s still-unsettled 20th district special election.

According to tallies released by the New York Board of Elections, Murphy led by 168 votes as of 10 a.m. — he had 78,329 to Republican Jim Tedisco’s 78,161.

Murphy’s lead is the largest since the counting of approximately 6,700 absentee ballots began last week following the March 31 special election to fill Gillibrand’s House seat.

Absentee vote counting is complete in half of the district’s 10 counties, but Republicans believe they will make up ground when absentee vote totals come in from Saratoga County, which has yet to report any results. Saratoga is the most populous county in the district, and it was won by Tedisco on Election Day. Meanwhile, overseas absentee ballots, including those of military personnel, began being counted in three counties Tuesday and continues Wednesday.

While scores of ballots have been challenged since Tuesday, the challenge of Gillibrand’s ballot especially roiled Democrats. Republicans argued that Gillibrand’s ballot should be discounted because she was in the district on Election Day.

On Tuesday evening Gillibrand posted a statement on Huffingtonpost.com calling the challenge of her ballot “frivolous and without merit.— She said the move “is part of a much larger attempt to disenfranchise legal Democratic voters and delay Scott Murphy’s inevitable victory in the 20th. National Republicans are trying to turn the 20th District of New York into the next Minnesota— — a reference to the contested 2008 Senate race there.

“Given that we expect this race to remain close, it is all the more critical that all lawful ballots be counted and that the integrity of this process be protected,— Tedisco’s attorney James Walsh said in a statement released Tuesday evening.