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Legal Proceedings Delay NY-22 Ballot Counting

BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — A final result in the race for New York’s 22nd Congressional District are weeks away. An Oswego judge ordered county boards of elections to refrain from opening or counting mail-in ballots until further notice after both Republican candidate Claudia Tenney and Democratic incumbent Anthony Brindisi filed lawsuits demanding further supervision of the tabulation.

The order was issued Friday after Tenney’s campaign filed a petition against each of the county election offices in the district, as well as the New York State Board of Elections, Brindisi and Keith Price, the Libertarian candidate in the race. Oswego County Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte authored the notice. He is presiding over the lawsuit, filed by the Tenney campaign on Nov. 4.

The former Republican Congresswoman is represented by GOP election attorney Joe Burns, who represents Rep. John Katko (NY-24) and Rep. Tom Reed (NY-23) in similar lawsuits filed last week.

Submitted with nearly identical language, all three request that the court supervises and verifies the counts from early voting and Election Day, and validate and cure all mail-in ballots county boards receive.

In the final section of each petition, the Republican challenger requests a judgment of the court will then order election commissioners to certify the petitioning candidate as the elected winner.

A spokesperson for Tenney’s campaign clarified Monday evening that they’re asking to be certified only once all “legal and proper votes are tabulated.”

Absentee ballots may arrive at their county election offices until Nov. 10 and still be eligible for counting, as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3.

While both Katko and Reed maintain leads of more than 50,000 votes, Tenney is up by 28,000 votes in NY-22. So far, at least 57,900 absentee ballots have been returned throughout the district. Brindisi would need to win a majority of them to keep his seat in Congress.

In a statement, Tenney’s campaign said they preemptively filed in court to ensure all outstanding ballots are counted fairly.

“This process, isn't [sic] about anything other than protecting the candidate's rights and protecting the will of the voters in this district,” Claudia Tenney for Congress spokesman Sean Kennedy wrote.

He said the campaign is confident Tenney will be declared the winner once all votes are counted. In a cross-petition filed over the weekend, Brindisi’s campaign said they were similarly confident of the Congressman’s chances of winning re-election.

Brindisi spokesperson Luke Jackson said in a statement that the Brindisi campaign will fight to make sure every legal ballot is counted.

“Elections aren’t won or lost on Twitter or in the courtroom, they’re settled at the ballot box,” Jackson wrote. “We look forward to the count of every legal ballot.”

Both campaigns now request the ability to have a party represent the candidate in inspecting ballots and objecting as appropriate. Attorneys representing county boards across the district and New York State, however, said court supervision of the ballot counting will dramatically lengthen the process.

Robert Pronteau, an attorney representing the Oneida County Board of Elections, said the county received more than 20,000 absentee ballots returned. During a formal meeting led by Justice DelConte, Pronteau said having attorneys from each campaign present to supervise the counting and verify each ballot, as well as its envelope, will add 2,000 hours to the task.

“It’s just not enough time,” Pronteau said “So even if we go forward with the canvass as we normally do it, the vast number of absentee ballots as a practical matter is going to make it next to impossible to get this done.

States must certify a winner by Nov. 28. A law secretary to DelConte said a decision should be made by Thursday.