From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
Is Democrat Scott Murphy moving closer to winning the still very close 20th congressional district race in Upstate New York?
This morning, the state elections board, updated its numbers and now shows Murphy widening his lead to 167 votes (79,404 to 79,237) over Republican Jim Tedisco (as of 10:00 am ET).
Tedisco's biggest potential arrow was Saratoga County, which he won by almost 5,000 votes. But Saratoga is completely done counting absentees as well as those overseas and military ballots. All that's left are challenged ballots. As has been reported, Tedisco has challenged far more ballots than Murphy. Translation: Plainly, there are likely more Murphy ballots out there than Tedisco ones.
What's left? Dutchess, Columbia, Warren, Essex and Renselaer counties all have ballots left to count, according to John Conklin, director of public information for the state board of elections.
Dutchess, Columbia and Warren -- all won by Murphy on Election Day -- have both absentees and military and overseas ballots still to be counted. Essex and Renselaer have just those military and overseas ballots to count, Conklin said. Murphy won the smaller Essex; Tedisco did win Renselaer (by 474 votes out of almost 16,000, or 51.5% to 48.5%). So there could be some votes there for him.
The increase in Murphy's numbers today reflect changes from Columbia, Warren and Dutchess, Conklin said. Yesterday Dutchess County Supreme Court Justice James V. Brands, ordered that 100 challenged ballots district-wide be included in vote total.
He deferred to the two bipartisan county elections board commissioners, who agreed that the ballots were valid. Unlike some other states, in New York, elections are handled through a state elections board, not the Secretary of State's office. In each county, two officials are appointed to head the local board. There is one Democrat and one Republican -- in every, single county in the state. That gives their decisions a lot of teeth -- so to speak. It makes it diffiicult for candidates, in particular, to challenge them when they agree.
So how much longer might this take? "It's over when it's over," Conklin said. But judging by the rate at which Brands is dealing with the challenges, Conklin estimated Brands could be "looking to end this" within the next two weeks or so.