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(UPDATE) Deciding the 46th Senate District with spreadsheets

Almost 11,000 absentee votes and an unknown number of affidavit ballots will likely be the deciding factor in the 46th Senate District.

The race is currently led by Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk, who has 58,314, with Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, at close second with 58,175 votes. The 139-vote margin from Election Day voters could easily be swung by the absentee and affidavit ballots that have yet to be counted.

Typically in any race that comes down to counting paper ballots, the leader on Election Day holds on to win.

In this case, though, that axiom could be flawed because Tkaczyk’s narrow lead was built on a late charge in the race. It is possible that this late momentum, led largely by outside spending on her behalf, came after absentee voters already mailed in their ballots. At the same time, it is possible this late surge will lead to more affidavit ballots.

Going forward, it is first important to look at where we’ve been in the 46th Senate District. In this case, reviewing the county vote totals from Election Day helps to provide some insight into how absentee and affidavit ballots will break. The machine totals from Election Day are below.

Based on these numbers, Amedore’s strengths were in the areas he already represents, Schenectady and Montgomery counties, and Greene County. In fact it was the early returns from Schenectady and Greene counties that led Amedore to prematurely declare victory on Tuesday.

Ultimately, Montgomery County was the biggest net gain for Amedore, who almost doubled Tkaczyk.
Tkaczyk performed well in Ulster and Albany counties. In particular Ulster County, which is far from where Amedore represents, netted Tkaczyk about 8,200 votes.

These returns should be considered when analyzing absentee and affidavit ballots, because they usually reflect Election Day totals. That’s why it matters where the absentee and affidavit ballots come from. The geography of absentee ballots is available below.

Based on totals from Tuesday, the most absentees returned are from Ulster and Albany counties, which broke for Tkacyk. In total, these counties represent about 55 percent of the approximately 9,000 absentees returned at this point.

More absentee ballots are likely to trickle in over the next couple days, with Amedore needing more to come in for Greene County, based on how well he did there on Election Day. The problem is that more absentee ballots could also come in from Albany County, which would benefit Tkaczyk, based on Election Day results.

More telling than the geography of the absentee voters, are the party affiliations of the absentee voters. A breakdown of absentee ballots returned by party affiliations is available below.

First off, you’ll notice that these totals don’t exactly match the numbers received based on geography. That is because of some wiggle room in Ulster County, where numbers were read out loud to me, and in Montgomery County, where third-party ballots most likely threw off my math by about 20 votes.

If we ignore those inconsistencies, the Democrats have returned more absentee ballots than Republicans. About 3,325 have come from Democrats and 3,100 from Republicans.

These numbers don’t mean Tkaczyk should be dancing in the street, as Amedore won the Democratic leaning Schenectady County and did amazing in the evenly split Montgomery County. That’s why it matters where the Democratic and Republican absentee ballots come from, with this race reinforcing that geography changes a party’s definition.

But the affiliations also reveal some good news for Amedore, based on returns from Independence and Conservative voters, who have turned in about 409 and 183 ballots respectively. He was on the ballot lines for both these parties and did well among both groups in a recent Siena poll. If you assume the two candidates split Independence absentee ballots, it would still be fair to assume that Amedore wins at least 60 percent of the Conservative absentee ballots. This outcome would net him about 36 votes, about one-fourth his current deficit.

The almost 2,000 absentee ballots from independent voters are the biggest question mark left in this race.

And finally, if it wasn’t complicated enough, there are affidavit ballots. These provisional paper ballots are cast when voters have a problem actually voting in their polling place, which can include a variety of problems. There could be a lot of these ballots from University of Albany students and Ulster County could have a large number, according to Democratic Ulster County Board of Elections Commissioner Victor Work.

“We know there are a lot of them,” Work said

The reason he couldn’t give a more exact number is because there are a bunch of affidavit ballots mixed in that are for races outside the county and were cast as the result of an executive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo because of Hurricane Sandy.

Once the local boards of elections have a grasp on the number of affidavit ballots, they will then begin to determine the eligibility of these votes. Some will be disqualified and other will be approved, with lawyer for both sides having the ability to challenge either decision before a judge.

Now we wait for absentee ballots to trickle in and a count on affidavit ballots. Lawyers for both campaigns will meet on Friday to hash out a schedule on all of this good stuff, which could be responsible for determining control of the state Senate!

UPDATE, 12:59 p.m.: Greene County BOE worker noted that they have no idea how many affidavit ballots were submitted because of the impound order.

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