Katko files lawsuit over ballot counting

Katko files lawsuit over ballot counting

Republican incumbent John Katko maintains a solid lead, but there is still no winner in NY-24.
Published: November 3, 2020
A voter checks in at the Salina Town Hall polling station before casting their ballot.
Voters check in at the Salina Town Hall polling station Tuesday before casting their ballots.

U.S. Rep. John Katko has filed a lawsuit to ask a judge to oversee the counting of over 70,000 absentee ballots, according to syracuse.com.

Katko currently leads the race for NY-24 by 55,000 votes, but his opponent, Democrat Dana Balter, has yet to concede the race, citing tens of thousands of uncounted votes. Onondaga County begins counting the absentee ballots on Monday. 

Katko’s case will be heard by Justice Joseph Lamendola, and he will be represented by Joseph Burns. The date for the hearing has not been set.

On Wednesday, Balter called for every mail-in ballot to be counted.

With in-person and early voting ballots counted, Katko had 57.1% of the vote, while Balter stood at 36.9%, as of Thursday afternoon. Katko has claimed 155,830 votes and Balter has 100,728.

Balter’s campaign said there were 70,000 absentee ballots across the four-county district.

“In an election with unprecedented use of mail-in voting, we must allow time for all mail-in ballots to be counted,” Balter said.

While Katko did not give a victory speech following Tuesday’s election tabulations, Katko expressed confidence early Wednesday morning that he would return to Washington for a fourth term.

“As the outstanding absentee ballots are counted in NY-24, it’s clear our campaign has prevailed,” Katko said.

New York’s 24th Congressional District covers Onondaga, Wayne, and Cayuga counties, and a part of Oswego County. Onondaga County absentee ballots cannot begin to be counted until Nov. 9. Absentee ballot counting starts on different days depending on the county. Wayne County will begin counting absentee ballots on Nov. 16.

Onondaga County Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny said Wednesday there are still 54,000 uncounted absentee ballots in the county but wasn’t certain how long it would take to count them.

“We hope that we will be done by the end of next week,” Czarny said. “What it really depends on is how slow that candidates are in the process because they get to observe and make objections.”

In-person voting on November 3 went relatively smoothly, Czarny said.

“No Election Day ever goes off without any hitches,” Czarny said, adding there were some printer malfunctions that delayed the voting process.

“I don’t think anybody was denied the right to vote,” he said. “We were able to fix it pretty early in the day.”

In the neighboring 22nd congressional district, Democrat Rep. Anthony Brindisi has also refused to concede to Republican challenger Claudia Tenney. With 80% of the votes counted, Tenney has 53.3% of the vote to Brindisi’s 42.4%.

In NY-23, Rep. Tom Reed leads Democratic challenger Tracy Mitrano. With 79% of votes counted, the Republican incumbent has 160,131 votes, or 61.2%, compared to Mitrano’s 90,959 votes, or 34.7%.

At close of Election Day, Katko has strong lead in NY-24 race

November 3, 2020 11:45 p.m.

U.S. Rep. John Katko held a lead in his contentious rematch against Dana Balter for New York’s 24th congressional district as election night counting wrapped up.

As of 11:45 p.m. on Election Day, Katko had a comfortable lead with 57.1% of the vote to Balter’s 36.9%, with 78% of precincts reporting in one of the nation’s most closely watched congressional races. Katko has 155,830 votes and Balter has 100,728 votes.

According to Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny, 221,000 votes were cast in Onondaga County. These results do not include absentee ballots from the district, which will begin to be counted on Nov. 9 at the earliest. Absentee ballot counting starts on different days depending on the county.

Steve Williams, the Working Families Party candidate, garnered 3.7% with 9,835 votes. Williams endorsed Balter in the race.

Katko and Balter were in a dead heat of Sunday in a traditionally swing district, according to a syracuse.com and a Siena College poll. The district includes all of Onondaga, Wayne, and Cayuga counties and parts of Oswego County.

“As the outstanding absentee ballots are counted in NY-24, it’s clear our campaign has prevailed,” Katko said in a statement early Wednesday morning.

The Cook Political Report had categorized the race as a toss-up headed into election day. Katko is one of three Republican members of the house that represents a district that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The Lugar Center rates Katko as the second most bipartisan member of the House. He was one of 20 Republicans who voted against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He has also been an outspoken supporter of a second coronavirus aid package, tweeting his disapproval of the President’s opposing stance in early October.

Balter, a Syracuse Democrat, previously taught at SU’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. This is the second time Balter challenged Katko for the seat, after losing to him by six percentage points in 2018.

In the last debate of the race, Balter attacked Katko’s track record supporting Trump, including his endorsement of the president last January. Katko rejected the notion, pitching himself as an independent voice for Central New York. Throughout the campaign, the two candidates clashed over the coronavirus pandemic, health care, the president and the economy.

Both candidates have spent a combined $6.3 million through Oct. 14, according to the Federal Elections Commission. Outside groups spent over $10 million on the race.

Katko spent election day traveling around the 24th district, while Balter campaigned in the Syracuse area.

Patrick Linehan and Adriana Rozas Rivera