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November 12, 2009

Winning margin in Owens/Hoffman US House race shrinks

Recount narrows gap with thousands of ballots left

ALBANY — The special election last week for the 23rd Congressional District seat in New York may not be over after all.

Though Conservative candidate Douglas Hoffman conceded and Democrat William Owens was sworn into Congress last week, the routine recanvassing of votes shows Owens' lead has narrowed to 3,026 votes, with about 5,800 absentee ballots received so far that have yet to be counted. The final outcome rests on uncounted absentee ballots, and more than 10,000 were sent out.

The county Boards of Election are still recanvassing votes, and it could be the end of November before a final count is certified. If the count overturns the election, Owens could be removed from office.

But in all likelihood, it would take a major development to change the result.

The Hoffman campaign conceded when it learned it had a narrow edge in Oswego County — considered the Conservative candidate's base — and after campaign workers learned Owens led by 5,335 votes with 93 percent of the returns in.

"On election night we were kind of stunned — and that's kind of why we conceded — how poorly we did in Oswego," Hoffman spokesman Rob Ryan said. "Then we found out a few days later that the numbers were narrowing because of reporting problems."

Initially Hoffman was reported to have a 500-vote lead in Oswego County, but recanvassing indicates he actually won there by 1,748 votes: 12,748 to 11,000.

'We may have a shot'

"Who knows? We may have a shot," Ryan said.

"Having just gone through this race, and having seen everything that's gone on, it's possible," he said.

The Syracuse Post-Standard first reported that problems in some counties resulted in underreporting of votes for Hoffman on election night Nov. 3.

"Mistakes are found, somebody put the wrong number in a column, or numbers are transposed. ... It's not uncommon," said John Conklin, a spokesman for the state Board of Elections.

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