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On Wednesday it looked like the Working Families Party was down for the count–4,000 votes short of its electoral grail, the 50,000 vote threshold that would guarantee its place on all state ballots for the next four years. But by Friday, that margin fell to 2,500, and this week supporters are hoping a re-count and tally of absentee ballots will push their party over the top.

According to the WFP’s Bob Master, area political director of the Communications Workers’ of America, some upstate districts with a few scattered votes for Peter Vallone on the party’s line had initially reported no votes at all for the WFP. When those votes new votes were discovered on Friday, said Master, the total was up to 47,504.

“We’ll get somewhere in the forty-eight thousands from absentees, and then we’ll see what happens with re-counts,” said Master. “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” The state’s 132,347 absentee ballots won’t be counted until later this week. Less than 25,000 are from New York City, the party’s base.

The close call is tantalizing for the five-month-old party, which has spent the last months trying to convince progressive voters to pull the lever for centrist City Council Speaker Peter Vallone on their labor and grassroots-organizing platform.

It was a difficult political sell in a sleepy race that Governor Pataki won by nearly twenty points. But party organizers say what ultimately did them in was simply real estate–that the lever for Vallone on the Working Families line was very difficult to find on the ballot machine, way over to the right, way down at the bottom, below the Green party and near the Socialist Workers and Marijuana Reform parties. “We thought we’d get 50,000 to 60,000 votes, and there were probably that many that tried to vote for us,” said the party’s John Kest.

Kest also pointed to Vallone’s low numbers. “I certainly don’t hold him responsible,” Kest said. “But had he got 45 percent of the vote, instead of 33 percent, we would have probably had another 5,000 votes.”

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