Numbers, please

Numbers, please

I thought the fat lady was about to enter stage-left (where the majority of Ulster voters come from these days) when Democrat Dave Clegg took what appeared to be a commanding 148-vote lead over Republican Mike Kavanagh last week. But they kept counting.

With 2,275 absentee votes tallied, there remains 200 affidavits in the hopper; Clegg has a 45-vote advantage as both sides head to court next week. Every vote will be counted, and no doubt challenged. This is high-stakes politics.

Clegg goes to court with a significant advantage. His 45-vote margin, assuming it withstands further scrutiny, means Kavanagh will have to take 62 percent of those 200 affidavits in order to secure a three-vote victory. Given that the Republican polled just a tick over 50 percent on election night, it is unlikely he’ll suddenly surge by double-digits. But then, the fat lady was warming up when Kavanagh was down by three times as many votes in the next to last count of absentees.

The bottom line will be that neither candidate will have a mandate and precious little time to organize his new office. That could cause problems for the winner heading into a four-year term.

And that district attorney will face dramatically different challenges than retiring DA Holley Carnright did when he took office in 2008, even four years ago. The rules have changed as have the players. Kavanagh might have some difficulty operating under progressive new laws promulgated by state government; Clegg will welcome such.

The scales have been tipped in other ways as well. Progressive county executive Pat Ryan has recommended six new public defenders in his 2020 budget, six young progressive Democrats funded by the state (for once) and eager to make their mark. Clegg would be in heaven, Kavanagh, who calls himself a “moderate,” at sea.

Which is to say, it matters a great deal where those 200 votes land.

Postscript. A couple of things about Campaign 19 stick in my craw (wherever that is), the general election in general DA in particular.

Early voting was in effect for the first time, to mixed reviews. It is not clear whether allowing voters to begin voting 10 days before election day encouraged voting, or made little difference. Fifty-thousand votes out of 117,000 registrants (about 43 percent) doesn’t sound all that impressive no matter how politicians spin the numbers.

I did not at all approve of Democrats announcing after the first weekend of early voting that something like four times as many Democrats had voted as Republicans. It was a blatant attempt to influence the election and it may have worked. Next time, keep it all under wraps until the machine counts come in on election night.

The board of elections erred too in not immediately including those early votes when machine tallies began coming on line about an hour after polls closed. It didn’t change anything, of course, but it added unnecessary suspense.

On the DA race (or any other close one), we all appreciate the necessity to count and certify every vote, but must it take almost a month (if then) to decide an election in this the 21st century?

The notion that there is a 15-day ”mandated” hold on counting absentees (presumably to allow mailed ballots to arrive at the board of elections) is in this 24/7 news cycle in which we live (and endure) simply unacceptable. The state legislature needs to take a fast and hard look at rules from bygone eras.

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