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Hoffman letter says groups 'tampered' with vote results

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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With his prospects of winning the 23rd Congressional District race now almost zero, Conservative Party candidate Douglas L. Hoffman suggested Wednesday in a letter that "ACORN, the unions and the Democratic Party" "tampered" with results to deny him victory.


Mr. Hoffman provided no evidence to support his claims, but asked fellow conservatives to send donations his way to "ensure every vote is counted."


Jerry O. Eaton, Jefferson County Republican elections commissioner, called Mr. Hoffman's assertion "absolutely false."


"No one has touched those ballots or has access to those ballots except Board of Elections staff — and in a bipartisan manner," he said.


Mr. Hoffman trails Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, by 2,832 votes after 42.6 percent of absentee ballots districtwide were reported Wednesday. Officials are expected to count the 4,262 ballots remaining by Monday.


Mr. Hoffman told conservatives he was "forced to concede" on election night after learning that he trailed by 5,335 votes and that he "barely won" his "stronghold in Oswego County."


Oswego County did not have full results on election night because of what William W. Scriber, a Democratic elections commissioner there, called a "perfect storm" of problems. He said the elections board had assigned staffers to take results for specific districts, but the phone system redirected poll workers' calls to the wrong people.


Mr. Scriber said the board decided to close its public reporting system early, with nine districts still unreported, as a safeguard.


"We believe we did the right thing," he said Wednesday. "But we've been abused so badly in this situation."


Mr. Hoffman led Oswego County by 500 votes when elections officials stopped taking results. When elections officials recanvassed the machine vote, the candidate's lead was upgraded to 1,748.


Mr. Hoffman said the "phone system foul-up" and "inspectors who read numbers incorrectly when phoning in results" "sounds like a tactic right from the ACORN playbook."


George J. Williams, Oswego County Republican chairman, said Mr. Hoffman's assertion "is not accurate." He said he roamed the county on Election Day and saw no evidence of tampering.


"We're not going to take the blame because he didn't hold his concession speech," Mr. Williams said. "If there's any doubt, I would never concede. I know things could happen. Did illegal things happen? No, I do not believe that."


Robert H. Ryan, Mr. Hoffman's spokesman, declined to provide supporting evidence for his candidate's claims Wednesday.


"When and if we challenge the election, we will lay out the evidence on these matters," he said.


Mr. Hoffman trailed Mr. Owens by 3,176 before absentee votes were opened. The Conservative Party candidate has gained 344 votes on his Democratic opponent among the first 3,157 absentee ballots opened.


It's still mathematically possible that Mr. Hoffman could win.


But Republican Dierdre K. Scozzafava is far exceeding her showing on Election Day, lowering Mr. Owens's threshold to ensure victory.


If Ms. Scozzafava continues to take 21 percent of the absentee ballots, Mr. Hoffman will have to win 92 percent of what remains to pass Mr. Owens. So far, he has picked up 44.9 percent of absentee votes.

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