The outcome of the contested race for a House seat in New York’s 22nd congressional district remained uncertain Tuesday after a state Supreme Court justice ordered elections officials in eight counties to recanvass votes to correct alleged tabulation errors.
The ruling marked a setback for Republican candidate Claudia Tenney, who held a razor-thin lead of just 12 votes over incumbent Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi in the district’s unofficial count. New York State Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte rejected an argument from the Tenney campaign’s attorneys that election results should be certified as they stand.
“The problems experienced by the candidates and, consequently, all of the voters across the eight counties in New York’s 22nd Congressional District, were a direct result of the careless or inadvertent failure to follow the mandate of statute and case law by the Boards of Election,” DelConte said in his ruling.
DelConte was critical of legal arguments from both campaigns and determined that elections officials in all eight district counties should recanvass results in order to correct errors related to their handling of provisional or absentee votes and identify any counting errors. The Brindisi campaign had sought to limit the recanvass order to specific counties within the district.
The ruling could mean a delay of weeks as county elections boards work through the process outlined by DelConte. The winning candidate was originally slated to be sworn in on Jan. 3.
“Today’s decision affirmatively rejected Brindisi’s attempt to have only votes favorable to his campaign counted,” Tenney campaign spokesman Sean Kennedy said in a statement. “It appears that this ruling will see to it that every legal vote is counted. If the proper legal procedures are followed, we are confident that we will prevail and Claudia will assume office as the Congresswoman for New York’s 22nd District.”
Brindisi, who unseated Tenney during the 2018 election cycle, called the judge’s decision a “win for the people of the 22nd district.”
“As this process continues to play out, I hope everyone, including those who did not vote for me, and my opponent will do what is best for our country and protect the integrity of our election,” Brindisi wrote on Twitter.
The race of New York’s 22nd congressional district was beset by reports of mishandled ballots and other instances of human error. In one case, officials in Oneida County used sticky notes to identify disputed ballots, rather than mark the ballots in ink as required by state law.
Last week, officials discovered 55 uncounted ballots in rural Chenango County, enough to swing the outcome of the election. Of those 55 votes, 11 were cast by unregistered voters.
DelConte referenced 12 additional “uncanvassed” ballots in Chenango County that were separate from the 55 ballots. The 12 ballots were marked “undetermined” and “safeguarded” until the court could review them.
Tenney’s attorneys had argued that elections officials failed to properly canvass those ballots during their initial count, according to local media reports.
In his decision, DelConte noted there was no evidence of fraud in the 22nd district race.
“There is absolutely no evidence – or even an allegation – before this Court of any fraud on the part of the Boards or the campaigns,” DelConte said. “Nor is there any evidence that the Boards’ failures and errors were the result of the pandemic, recent amendments to the Election Law or a strain upon the Boards of Elections’ capacity and resources.”