The state Court of Appeals blocked an effort today by Republican Senate hopeful George Amedore to hear arguments in the last remaining undecided race, paving the way for 99 ballots to be counted.

In the 4-1 decision, the state’s highest court determined that a lower level court’s decision to open the ballots in the race between the assemblyman and his Democratic challenger, Cecilia Tkaczyk, should move forward.

Judge Victoria Graffeo, who was appointed to the court in 2001 by former Republican Gov. George Pataki, was the lone dissenter. (Her opinion appears below).

Amedore leads Tkaczyk by 37 votes and has been certified by an acting Montgomery County justice as the winner of the November general election. But Tkaczyk’s lawyers have refused to accept that outcome, and continued pressing forward with legal challenges.

While today’s decision by the high court not to hear Amedore’s appeal is good news for Tkaczyk, it’s not necessarily a clear path to victory for her.

She needs to win 69 of the outstanding votes to overcome Amedore’s lead. And while the bulk of the ballots come from Ulster County, where she performed quite strongly, there’s no guarantee that everyone remembered to vote in down-ballot elections. (The drop-off in presidential election years is usually fairly substantial).

Also, some 53 of the ballots were cast by elections inspectors – both Democrats and Republicans.

Nevertheless, Team Tkaczyk remains hopeful in the wake of today’s Court of Appeals decision.

“We look forward to resolving the electoral process and counting the ballots ruled valid by the courts to ensure these New Yorkers have their voices heard,” said Tkaczyk spokesman Gary Ginsburg.

The 46th Senate District is the so-called 63rd seat in the chamber added by Republicans during the redistricting process and drawn with Amedore in mind. It stretches from the Mohawk Valley to the Hudson Valley.

In a race that has seen many twists and turns to date, an additional wrinkle cropped up today: Another uncounted ballot was found earlier this week in Montgomery County. According to Tkaczyk’s attorney, Frank Hoare, the ballot belongs to a Democratic election inspector.

It’s unclear how this ballot will be treated.

Do the two sides have to go back to court to fight over it? In a contest this tight, every single vote counts. It’s certainly possible – although improbable – that this fight could come down to a single ballot. (Jimmy Vielkind also wrote not long ago about the possibility of a tie, which would essentially hit the reset button and require a do-over special election called by the governor).

The counting of those 99 ballots will likely not occur today. There is a process that has to be followed, and the ballots in question have to be collected from the appellate division, although it should be easy enough to find the necessary elections commissions because they’re all attending their winter meeting in Albany today at the old Crowne Plaza Hotel.

According to Hoare, the Ulster County commissioners don’t want the counting to take place until Friday at 10 a.m. So, it looks like we’re going to have to wait a few more days to learn the outcome of this cliffhanger.

UPDATE: Here’s the statement from Amedore’s spokesman Kris Thompson:

“We accept the Court of Appeals decision not to hear either side in this extended campaign for the 46th state senate seat. We anticipate the remaining 99 ballots will be counted by the end of this week. We look forward to the final counting and we remain confident. It has been a lengthy process that should be concluded shortly.”

court of appeals denies Amedore appeal by liz_benjamin6490