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NY 20th Congressional Election: Third party action with IRV and spoiler issues

All around New York, and all around the country, people will be closely watching the vote count for former Libertarian candidate for Congress Eric Sundwall…

The special election to fill the 20th Congressional District seat in New York, vacated when Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed to Senate, is too close to call. Scott Murphy is the candidate for the Democrats. Jim Tedisco is the Republican. Media reports show Murphy winning with a lead of 59 or 65 points. Though, there are thousands of absentee and military ballots at large.

A third candidate had been running for the seat, Libertarian Eric Sundwall. When Sundwall’s petitions were challenged, he was removed from the ballot. In addition, after Sundwall’s defeat, he endorsed Democrat Scott Murphy.

And, of great importance, and noted by Ballot Access News: Because of the timing of the petition challenges in a special election, Eric Sundwall’s name was actually on the absentee ballots. So, as the absentee ballots are counted, it will be clear the influence the Libertarian Party may have had on the overall race, and is having because of its position on the absentee ballots. It is amazing that mainstream media reports could leave out the name of a candidate who is going to be named in the recount.

This race is so entertaining for me as a third party activist. It is a flashy object lesson on the power of third parties. And, why major party candidates try to block third party candidates from the race. (Hmmm…which parties cronies filed the challenges to Eric Sundwall’s petitions?) It is also a lesson in the value of Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). If there was IRV – where the voters may rank all the choices of candidates – then on the absentee ballots where Sundwall was picked, the voters second preference would have been expressed.

Wonder if any major party folks will learn to appreciate IRV after this incident?

Excerpts from a story at the Washington Post (which leaves out any mention of the Libertarian candidate or his endorsement):

(excerpt from) Washington Post
Absentee Ballots to Decide N.Y. House Race
Democrat Murphy Has Slender Lead Over Tedisco in Closely Watched Contest

NEW YORK, March 31 — A special election in Upstate New York to fill a vacant House seat…with the two candidates separated by just 59 votes and a lengthy process of awaiting and counting absentee ballots set to begin.

With all precincts reporting, Democrat Scott Murphy, a venture capitalist, had 77,344 votes. Jim Tedisco, the Republican leader in the state assembly, had 77,285.

Election officials and outside observers said that about 5,900 absentee ballots had been received as of Monday. But about 10,000 absentee ballots were mailed, and those still out have another week to return — 13 days for ballots from overseas and from members of the military — as long as they were postmarked by Tuesday.

Steven Greenberg, of the Siena Research Institute of Siena College, said that slightly more than 1,000 military ballots and slightly fewer than 1,000 overseas ballots were mailed out.

“Florida 2000, Minnesota 2008 and now the New York 20th District 2009,” Greenberg said, citing two previous electoral deadlocks.

Some background and related stories from Independent Political Report (where Kimberly also writes):

Former Libertarian Candidate Sundwall Endorses Democrat Scott Murphy
March 27th, 2009 · 98 Comments

and

Libertarian Sundwall faces petition challenge
March 18th, 2009 · 25 Comments

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