BUFFALO, N.Y. - By Friday afternoon, some observers began comparing the process to the Florida recount during the 2000 Presidential Election.
On election, the Democratic Primary race between incumbent New York State Senator Tim Kennedy and challenger Betty Jean Grant was too close to call. Kennedy finished with a slim 91-vote lead, but there are potentially more than 1,500 ballots still waiting to be counted. Nearly 480 of them are affidavit ballots, which were given to voters who showed up at the polling place but did not appear on the registration list.
Determining which of those ballots is valid could take weeks. Kennedy has asked that all counting occur under the supervision of a court. Friday, elections commissioners and attorneys for both candidates went through every single absentee and affidavit ballot. They had not even begun counting as of 5pm.
Instead, they are examining the ballots to see if each is valid. Specifically, they are checking dates, signatures, and just about everything else they're allowed to evaluate. Among the observers at the table was Grant.
"This reminds me of the Florida recount," Grant said. "I think my chances (of winning) are very good. If you look at where the absentee ballots are coming from... They came from the election districts where I won five-to-one overwhelmingly."
A spokesperson for Senator Kennedy said this process is similar to what's happened in other close races and that the Senator is confident his lead will grow after the absentee ballots are counted.
During the inspection of the ballots, the attorneys for both candidates are allowed make objections. That means some of the ballots must be put aside and cannot be counted until a judge resolves the dispute over them.
Elections commissioners believe that, by the middle of next week, they can count all of the absentee and affidavit ballots they determine to be valid ballots. The problem stems from what happens with any of the disputed ballots. Ultimately, after the elections commissioners officially count the ballots, if the two candidates disagree with the commissioners about the validity of certain ballots, a judge may then have to decide, one at a time, whether each ballot was legally valid.
This could cause this race to remain unsettled for weeks.