Michael Carney and Bill Davignon thought they had experienced the ultimate election cliff-hanger in 2001. Their race for a seat in the Niagara County, New York, legislature was so close that it was thrown to the courts, eventually taking 38 days to decide. When Davignon, the Democrat, pulled through with a one-vote victory (1,675 to 1,674), Republicans lost control of the legislature.
But a rematch this past November has resulted in the rare case of a sequel living up to the original. Davignon and Carney faced off again for the same seat, and although Davignon was ahead by 32 votes on election night, various challenges and absentee ballots subsequently whittled the tally down to a tie at 1,470 votes each.
The election, still in appeals, has taken so long to decide that the new members of the county legislature have already been sworn in. Meanwhile, Davignon has kept his seat. If he loses his appeal and the election remains a tie, Carney will be appointed to the seat, thanks to a new law clarifying ties passed by the county legislature (now firmly back under Republican control).
The appeal process has taken some strange turns, including a challenge to Carney's own ballot. Carney, who filed an affidavit ballot because he recently moved, forgot to circle his gender, rendering the ballot incomplete. In the end, the ballot was allowed.
For Davignon, the lesson of the two elections is clear. "Every vote counts," he says. "It's just that simple."