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Scott Murphy clings to lead

Military and federal overseas absentee ballots were opened across the 20th Congressional District this week, where the count of absentee ballots in the too-close-to-call race has been proceeding for over a week.

As of press time, Wednesday, April 15, the count from the state Board of Elections showed Scott Murphy in the lead over James Tedisco by 168 votes, 78,329 to 78,161.

The results are still unofficial, but so far closely mirror returns from voting machines on March 31. Tedisco and his Republican brethren have since then asserted that military ballots will be a driving force in delivering a GOP win, but with just 205 of the 998 ballots sent out returned, Tedisco is petitioning for a 15-day deadline extension to allow those ballots to arrive at county Boards of Elections.

The Federal Voter Assistance Program of the Department of Defense recommends allowing 45 days from the time of sending overseas ballots to allow those ballots to be received and returned to election officials. In this case, because of the nature of the special election held in the State of New York on March 31, 2009, some counties sent their ballots out barely 18 days before the deadline, wrote Tedisco in a letter to the U.S. Attorney General, Gov. David Paterson and the state Board of Elections on Monday.

Lawyers for Murphy, on the other hand, are fighting to expedite the counting process. An April 8 court victory for Democrats let domestic absentee ballots be counted before the overseas deadline, for example.

"The people of the 20th Congressional District need their votes counted without endless delays, so they can be represented in Congress as quickly as possible," said Henry Berger, who is heading up Murphy's legal team.

Efforts to extend the deadline for military ballots would only allow them more time to reach the Boards of Elections"all ballots must have been postmarked by March 31 to be valid. Three counties " Delaware, Greene and Otsego " have completed counting all paper ballots, as of press time.

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