"Washington -- 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. 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."
Of course it would be too late for the House Pelosi-care vote. Yet it just shows that we should not quit until the last vote is counted.