NY-22 Minute: Tenney Needs Well Over 50% of Remaining Votes To Win By Luke Perry
Election Day was one week ago and there is still no winner in NY-22. Anthony Brindisi currently has a 1,293 vote lead out of 238,195 cast for a 0.54 percent advantage. The counting of absentee ballots began today, raising several questions about this process and what will happen next.
How many uncounted ballots are there?
There are an estimated 15,000 to 17,000 additional ballots to be counted. This will be done by county with a representative of each campaign present per court order. This was requested by the Brindisi campaign and granted by the New York State Supreme Court. All ballots, absentee ballots, affidavit ballots, memory sticks from voting machines, and related election records, will be secured by law enforcement during this process.
What do we know about these ballots?
These ballots vary by county of origin and party affiliation. Many of the remaining ballots will likely come from Oneida County and Broome County because they are the two largest counties in the district. For instance, there are over 5,000 ballots from Oneida County alone. Brindisi has a small lead in Oneida County (50.13 percent 48.88 percent) and a substantial one in Broome County (54.67 percent to 43.47 percent).
Oswego County has twice as many remaining ballots submitted by registered Republicans than registered Democrats. This is Tenney’s strongest performing county, as she currently leads with 60 percent of the vote. Margins were closer elsewhere, including other counties Tenney won, such as Madison and Herkimer Counties.
One analysis estimated that 48 percent of voters whose ballots have yet to be counted are Republicans or lean right, 39 percent Democrat or lean left, and 13 percent are unenrolled. This 9 percent difference is similar to the 7 percent enrollment edge in NY-22 by parties on the right over parties on the left in NY-22.
According to the New York State Board of Elections, voters enrolled in the Republican Party and Conservative Party currently comprise 40 percent of registered voters in NY-22. Voters enrolled in the Democratic Party, Working Families Party, or Green Party comprise 33 percent.
Brindisi received 5,283 votes from Independence Party members as their endorsed candidate. There are 25,912 registered Independence Party members in the district. How independents and unaffiliated voters break will be a factor as well.
What can we expect?
Non-traditional voting (ie. not on Election Day) is becoming more common in U.S. elections as states make it easier for people to vote through reforms such as early voting. New York does not have a high rate of non-traditional voting; however, so there is little known about related voting behavior.
One would reasonably expect non-traditional outcomes to be relatively similar to Election Day results. This is an assumption, not an informed prediction, due to lack of relevant data.
Does Tenney have a path to victory?
To make up the 1,239 vote deficit, Tenney would likely have to win well over 50 percent of the vote. Tenney was elected in 2016 with 46 percent of the vote. Tenney currently holds 48 percent of the vote.
Winning over 50 percent of the remaining ballots is possible, but not likely. For instance, if there are 15,000 additional votes to be tallied, Tenney would need to win 55 percent of these votes to emerge victorious.
Tenney is currently winning five counties, all with majority support. Tenney is at 55 percent in Chenango, Herkimer, and Tioga Counties, 60 percent in Oswego County, and 50 percent in Madison County. The problem for Tenney is that she is well below 55 percent in the two most populated counties, Oneida (49 percent) and Broome (43 percent), as well as Cortland (44 percent).
To be clear, this is just an estimate to illustrate how things may unfold. The total number of remaining ballots is yet to be determined. Also, with small samples like this, the sample may not be representative of the district as a whole, skewing outcomes. This could potentially occur, for instance, if there are disproportionately large amounts of military personal or college students who voted non-traditionally.
More certain is that the final outcome will remain very close and the validity of certain ballots may be called into question as the final count proceeds and counties move to certify the results. There are no automatic recount provisions in New York State, but one can be granted by the courts. This is certainly possible, given the anticipated final margin, and something both sides are probably preparing for.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College.
Read the NY-22 Minute for timely and comprehensive analysis of the campaign.