After four days of absentee ballot counting in the race for the First Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop, D - Southampton, took the lead from Randy Altschuler, the Republican challenger and businessman from St. James. According to spokesman Jon Schneider, Bishop leads by 15 votes.
Altschuler started the absentee ballot count, which began on Tuesday, with a 383-vote lead.
"While we still have a long road ahead, one pattern is clear: the more votes we count, the more votes Tim Bishop gains," Schneider said. "Even Randy Altschuler can't lodge enough frivolous challenges to suppress Bishop's lead."
As of 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Altschuler had objected to 211 more votes than Bishop had, Schneider said, bringing his total of challenged votes to 691. Bishop, according to Schneider, had challenged 480.
On Friday morning, Rob Ryan, Altschuler's spokesman, confirmed that his candidate has indeed challenged many absentee ballots mailed from out of the district. But he noted that the amount of vacation homes on the East End - Bishop's relative stronghold - could hypothetically allow people to vote in their primary home district one year, and their vacation home district another. In a press release on Thursday, Ryan stated that Bishop was trying to "deny military and poll workers' vote."
"That's different than challenging people who may have numerous residencies," he said on Friday morning. "You get situations where people can jump back and forth between districts depending on the race. One year there might be a tight race where their main residency is, than the following year they might vote where their vacation place is. That's a lot different than challenging someone who they know is a Republican working for the Board of Elections who is unable to vote on election day."
After all the absentees are counted, it may not even matter how many votes are chellenged by each candidate. The objected votes will go to a judge for a final determination only if the difference between the two candidates is so small that the number of challenged votes would make in impact in determining the winner.