Vote totals continue to shift in race for Virginia Attorney General

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November 8, 2013

Mark Obenshain
Mark Herring

By The State Executive Official Team

RICHMOND, Virginia: With 100 percent of precincts reporting, unofficial results from the Virginia State Board of Elections show Mark Obenshain (R) leading Mark Herring (D) in the race for Attorney General by less than 1,000 votes out of 2.2 million cast.[1]

A study of statewide recounts by FairVote between 2000 and 2012 found the average shift to the final total to be about 0.03 percent, enough to give the election to either candidate.[2] As local election boards recount their tallies, corrections have already been made. The boards are combing through ballots, looking for errors.

Dave Wasserman of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report has led the efforts to track unresolved issues and is tweeting all developments. He has also set up a “Crowdsource Canvass” Google doc to catch and account for errors in vote totals.

In Fairfax County, there were 8,363 absentee ballot requests, but only 4,168 of those votes were counted. 50.3% is a very low percentage for return when neighboring districts 10 and 11 had a return rate of 88% and 86% respectively. With it being a heavily Democratic area, it is expected that the approximately 3,000 ballots that have not been counted are likely to result in Herring taking the lead. Another discrepancy was found in the total number of absentee ballots cast. A pre-election news story by WUSA-9 showed Fairfax County reporting over 24,300 absentee ballots case, while the state Board of Elections’ site had reported just 22,484 absentee ballots cast as of November 7.[3]

A major battle is taking place over provisional votes - ballots cast by people who did not have legally permissible ID at the polls. Voters who cast these ballots have until Noon on November 8 to show proper ID to their local election board and explain why they cast a provisional vote. Board of Elections staff also review every provisional vote and it is up to the Board to accept or reject each ballot. It is unclear how many of these votes have not been counted.[4] Just weeks before the election the State Board of Elections initiated a purge of over 38,000 names from the voter rolls. Some local administrators reported finding hundreds of names that should not have been removed, which may have potentially increased the number of provisional ballots cast.[5] Both campaigns have urged voters to certify their ballots to make sure their vote is counted.[6]

Although Virginia Republican Party Chairman Pat Mullins sent out an e-mail congratulating Obenshain late Tuesday night, neither candidate has claimed victory or conceded. "We want to make sure all precincts are accounted for and results are accurate, all absentee ballots are counted and every Virginian who cast a provisional ballot has their voice heard," Herring said.[7]

Recount: Virginia Attorney General General Election, 2013
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngMark Herring (MOV post-recount +907) 50% 1,105,045
     Republican Mark Obenshain 50% 1,104,138
Total Votes 2,209,183
Election Results Virginia State Board of Elections.
Virginia Attorney General General Election, 2013
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngMark Herring (MOV pre-recount +165) 49.9% 1,103,777
     Republican Mark Obenshain 49.9% 1,103,612
     N/A Write-In 0.2% 4,892
Total Votes 2,212,281
Election Results via Virginia State Board of Elections.


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.[8] Local election boards have until November 19, 2013 to certify their results and pass them onto the Virginia State Board of Elections who then certifies them by November 25.[9]

A recount in 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.[8]

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.[10] 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.[11]

See also

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