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State Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy appeared to have an insurmountable lead over challenger Betty Jean Grant after a preliminary count of absentee and military ballots at the Erie County Board of Elections was announced shortly before 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Kennedy received 629 additional votes in the unofficial tally for the undecided 63rd State Senate Democratic primary race, compared to 438 for Grant. The latest count added 191 votes to the 91-vote lead that Kennedy had shortly after election night.
Even with a small number of ballots being challenged, the 282-vote margin is more than the 251 ballots - 58 emergency and 193 affidavit - that unofficially remained to be counted.
"Sen. Kennedy commanded a lead on Primary Day, and now his lead has grown. By our estimation, it's only a matter of time before his lead is certified," said John Mackowiak Jr., Kennedy's communications director.
Eighty-seven absentee ballots were disqualified by the election board, 72 of them because no candidate was chosen. An additional nine ballots listed both candidates, while six write-ins were disqualified.
After learning of the absentee returns, Grant, the Erie County Legislator chairwoman, said she would wait for the final result before deciding what to do.
"There are still some votes to be counted, and some that have been disputed and don't have a legitimate reason for being disputed. So, it is what it is," Grant said.
She said she is concerned that some people were not given proper notice by the Board of Elections as to where they should vote.
"When there is an election and the polling place has changed, there is an obligation to make sure people know where they're supposed to go," she said.
Grant also was bothered by the number of people who she said wanted to vote in the primary but weren't made aware they needed to be a registered Democrat.
Grant said she would attend a rally at 5 p.m. today outside the Board of Elections, 134 W. Eagle St. A flier being distributed said the balloting was "an attempt to steal yet another election by voter suppression and disenfranchisement."
The full count of ballots proceeded after State Appellate Justice Erin M. Peradotto ruled Monday that the Board of Elections could begin counting.
The board previously had been told by State Supreme Court Justice Joseph R. Glownia to proceed with counting only the ballots to which neither side had objected, a decision the election commissioners successfully appealed.

email: msommer@buffnews.com