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Did Doug Hoffman concede too early?

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By Michelle Malkin  •  November 12, 2009 10:55 AM

You’ll remember on election night a few weeks ago, upstate New York was reporting all sorts of ballot-counting glitches even as NY-23 conservative candidate Doug Hoffman conceded the race.

Now, the Syracuse Post-Standard reports that the race has tightened considerably — with thousands of military and overseas ballots still to be counted:

Conservative Doug Hoffman conceded the race in the 23rd Congressional District last week after receiving two pieces of grim news for his campaign: He was down 5,335 votes with 93 percent of the vote counted on election night, and he had barely won his stronghold in Oswego County.

As it turns out, neither was true.

But Hoffman’s concession — based on snafus in Oswego County and elsewhere that left his vote undercounted — set off a chain of events that echoed all the way to Washington, D.C., and helped secure passage of a historic health care reform bill.

Democratic Rep. Bill Owens was quickly sworn into office on Friday, a day before the rare weekend vote in the House of Representatives. His support sealed his party’s narrow victory on the health care legislation.

Now a recanvassing in the 11-county district shows that Owens’ lead has narrowed to 3,026 votes over Hoffman, 66,698 to 63,672, according to the latest unofficial results from the state Board of Elections.

In Oswego County, where Hoffman was reported to lead by only 500 votes with 93 percent of the vote counted election night, inspectors found Hoffman actually won by 1,748 votes — 12,748 to 11,000.

The new vote totals mean the race will be decided by absentee ballots, of which about 10,200 were distributed, said John Conklin, communications director for the state Board of Elections.

Under a new law in New York that extended deadlines, military and overseas ballots received by this coming Monday (and postmarked by Nov. 2) will be counted. Standard absentee ballots had to be returned this past Monday.

The state has yet to certify the election. Meantime, Speaker Pelosi hastily swore in Democrat Bill Owens, who hastily voted for the House government health care takeover bill last week, which barely squeaked through.

Conklin said the state sent a letter to the House Clerk last week explaining that no winner had been determined in the 23rd District, and therefore the state had not certified the election. But the letter noted that Owens still led by about 3,000 votes, and that the special election was not contested — two factors that legally allowed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to swear in Owens on Friday.

“We sent a letter to the clerk laying out the totals,” Conklin said. “The key is that Hoffman conceded, which means the race is not contested. However, all ballots will be counted, and if the result changes, Owens will have to be removed.”

Before Owens was sworn in Friday, Rep. John Garamendi, a Democrat who won a special election in California, was sworn in Thursday. The two gave Pelosi the votes she needed to reach a majority of 218 and pass the historic health care reform legislation in the House.

The bill passed 220-215 late Saturday with the support of only one Republican. The Republican, Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao of Louisiana, said he voted for the legislation only after seeing that Democrats had the 218 votes needed for passage.

As Jim Geraghty notes, it “would be really tough to make up a 3,000 vote margin in a three-way race among 10,000 absentee ballots.”

We’ll see shortly.

In the meantime, let it be a lesson to conservative challengers not to concede until the last ballot is counted.

The nation’s health may depend on it.

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Posted in: NY-23

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