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House race up in air as county finds 55 uncounted ballots

December 2, 2020 GMT
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FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2018, file photo, Republican Congresswoman Claudia Tenney signals she successfully cast her ballot after voting at St. George's Church in New Hartford, N.Y. On Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, Chenango County informed a state judge it had discovered 55 early voting ballots that weren't canvassed by the local board of election, and therefore weren't included in the vote totals in the ultra-tight race between Tenney and U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi. The most recent results — which don’t include those ballots — showed Tenney with a 12-vote lead over Brindisi. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth, File)
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FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2018, file photo, Republican Congresswoman Claudia Tenney signals she successfully cast her ballot after voting at St. George's Church in New Hartford, N.Y. On Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, Chenango County informed a state judge it had discovered 55 early voting ballots that weren't canvassed by the local board of election, and therefore weren't included in the vote totals in the ultra-tight race between Tenney and U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi. The most recent results — which don’t include those ballots — showed Tenney with a 12-vote lead over Brindisi. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Nearly a month after Election Day, a county in New York on Tuesday said it had discovered a small batch of uncounted ballots with the potential to sway the outcome of one of the nation’s closest battles for a seat in Congress.

Chenango County informed a state judge it had discovered 55 ballots cast during the state’s early voting period in the ultra-tight race between U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi, a Democrat, and his Republican challenger, former U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney.

“Those ballots were apparently mislaid and never counted,” Chenango County Attorney Alan Gordon wrote to Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte.

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The discovery of the uncounted ballots in the rural county of around 47,000 people came a day after local elections officials in the 22nd Congressional District reported what were supposed to have been their final vote totals to the judge. Those totals — which didn’t include the newly discovered ballots — had showed Tenney with a 12-vote lead.

“I have advised our Board of Elections to not open any of those ballots and to secure them in their offices,” Gordon said, adding that he was awaiting the court’s instructions on what to do next.

He said that of the 55 ballots, 11 appeared to have been cast by unregistered voters.

The final result in the race won’t be known until DelConte rules on challenges to more than 2,000 disputed absentee and affidavit ballots cast in the contest.

The discovery of the uncounted ballots is the latest twist in a roller coaster of a race. Tenney led by several thousand votes on Election Day, but her lead evaporated as absentee ballots were counted.

Brindisi appeared to take a lead of a few votes last week, only to see his advantage disappear last weekend after two counties said they had made tabulation errors.

County boards of election had faced a Nov. 28 deadline to send official results to the state, but DelConte has blocked certification while the vote counting disputes are resolved.

Boards of election in other parts of New York have also been slow to finalize their vote counts.

New York City didn’t release information on its absentee ballot count until Tuesday.

The city’s official tabulation confirmed that Republican Nicole Malliotakis had toppled first-term U.S. Rep. Max Rose, a Democrat representing a congressional district that includes Staten Island and part of Brooklyn.

Rose conceded the race Nov. 12, but The Associated Press did not declare Malliotakis the winner until Tuesday because of the previous lack of information about a large number of absentee ballots.

If Tenney ultimately prevails, she and Malliotakis would be two Republican women ousting incumbent first-term Democrats, both men, in parts of the state where President Donald Trump remains popular with a majority of voters.

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This story has been corrected to show that Chenango County informed a state judge it had discovered 55 ballots on Tuesday, not Monday.