Mark Obenshain orders recount of Virginia attorney general race
RICHMOND, Virginia: On November 25, 2013, the Virginia State Board of Elections certified the final results of the hotly contested attorney general race, declaring Democratic state Sen. Mark Herring the winner by a margin of 165 votes out of 2.2 million cast. This fell within the margin required by state election law for executing a publicly-financed recount, if requested by the loser: In this case, Republican state Sen. Mark Obenshain, who indeed called for a recount at a press conference on November 27. The chief judge of the Richmond Circuit Court will oversee the recount court as it examines the new vote totals submitted by localities. The three-member panel is expected to announce the final winner in mid-December.
After the board certified his win on November 25, Herring issued a statement pledging to use the attorney general's office to improve "public safety, veterans services, civil rights, consumer and small business protections, and ethics in our public sphere," in Virginia. "Our guiding principle will be to put the law and Virginians first, instead of adherence to extreme ideology," he stated, heralding the end of the reign of conservative officeholder Ken Cuccinelli (R), whom Herring is set to formally succeed in January 2014, barring a change in the outcome of the race.
If Herring survives the recount, he will be the first Democrat to control the office in almost two decades. If the outcome changes, however, and Obenshain is ruled to be the rightful successor to outgoing incumbent attorney general Ken Cuccinelli (R), the recount will have prevented a complete partisan overhaul of Virginia's top-tier executive branch in favor of the Democratic Party.
Virginia recount overview
Under state election law, the trailing candidate can request a recount if the margin of victory is less than 1 percent. If the margin is over half a percent, the candidate must pay for the recount. Local election boards had until November 19, 2013 to certify their results and pass them onto the Virginia State Board of Elections, who faced a November 25 certification deadline.
A recount in a race for Attorney General is not without recent precedent - in 2005 now-Gov. Bob McDonnell ran for the office against Creigh Deeds. The first result showed McDonnell with a victory of 323 votes, out of over 1.9 million votes cast. Deeds went on to file for a recount, which began on December 20, 2005. After preliminary figures revealed 37 additional votes for McDonnell, Deeds conceded, giving McDonnell a 360 vote margin of victory.
In the event of a recount, elections officials double-check and re-add totals from voting machine records. During the 2005 recount, the returns from nine precincts were also examined by hand. The recount cannot take place until after the vote is certified by the Board of Elections. Once that occurs, the apparent losing candidate has ten calendar days to file a recount petition with the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond.
The recount court, which determines the procedures of the recount, consists of the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court where the recount petition was filed and two other judges appointed by the Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Virginia. The court then appoints recount officials to represent the respective parties to the recount. Once all the votes cast are recounted, the court certifies the candidate with the most votes as the winner.
- Vote totals continue to shift in race for Virginia Attorney General
- Race for Virginia Attorney General remains too close to call
- State executive official elections results, 2013
- Virginia state executive elections (overview):
- Politico, "Mark Obenshain weighs recount in Virginia attorney general race," November 25, 2013
- Politico, "Virginia attorney general: 'Anyone's race'," November 8, 2013
- Watchdog Virginia, "Undervotes loom large in AG recount bid," November 27, 2013
- Blue Virginia, "Virginia Primary Election Results Live Blog," June 11, 2013
- Politico, "Mark Obenshain to request recount in Virginia attorney general race," November 26, 2013
- NYTimes.com: "A Virginia Recount Would Not Come Soon," November 8th, 2006
- MSNBC, Virginia Attorney General race still in limbo, November 7, 2013
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- Virginia State Board of Elections, " Virginia Recounts and Contests – the Basics," accessed November 6, 2013