Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Obenshain to announce for recount in the tight attorney general election

Mark Obenshain

Mark Obenshain

Mark Obenshain will formally request a recount in the historically close Attorney General’s race tomorrow morning. A margin of 165 votes out of more than 2.2 million ballots cast currently separates the two candidates. Ashley L. Taylor, Jr. and Stephen C. Piepgrass, representing Obenshain’s legal team, will hold a press conference call tomorrow.

Background on the Virginia Recount Procedure: 

The procedures for the recount are established in Virginia Code § 24.2-802 and regulations adopted by the Virginia State Board of Elections. The recount will be supervised by a three-judge court, sitting in Richmond, Virginia. The court will set the dates and terms of the recount and will confirm the officers of election and coordinators for the recount.   

The day of the recount, in each locality, recount teams will:

  • Run optical scan ballots through tabulating machines;
  • Recount by hand any optical scan ballots that are rejected from the machines;
  • Recount by hand provisional ballots;
  • Recount by hand absentee ballots;
  • Re-tally the tapes printed by direct-recording electronic voting machines; and
  • Reprint and re-tally any illegible tapes printed on election night.

If election officials cannot agree on how to count certain ballots, those ballots will be sent to Richmond so that the three-judge court can resolve the dispute. The results from all localities will then be tallied together and the three judges will declare the winner. 

In the 2005 recount in the close Attorney General’s race, optical scan ballots in only 10 precincts were re-run and re-tabulated.  That recount resulted in a net swing of 37 votes towards McDonnell. In 2008, legislation sponsored by Senator Creigh Deeds was enacted and became part of the recount statute, Code § 24.2-802, which mandates that optical scan ballots be run through the machines and re-tabulated in a recount, with any ballot rejected by the optical scan machine to be counted by hand.  

This change in the law is significant, because it means that the recount teams will have the opportunity to examine many ballots cast by voters that were not counted on election night (these ballots are referred to as “undervotes”).  As a result of the amendment of § 24.2-802, the Virginia Public Access Project estimates that there will be 100 times more ballots recounted this year than in 2005. One Virginia political analyst estimates that between 25,000 and 50,000 undervotes have yet to be counted.   

There have been four statewide elections in the United States since 2000 that finished within a 300 vote margin. Three of those four statewide elections were overturned in a recount. The current margin of 0.007% separating the two candidates for Attorney General this year is narrower than any other U.S. statewide race in the 21st century. 

RPV Chairman Pat Mullins issued the following statement:

“I think Mark Obenshain and his campaign have made the right decision in requesting a recount in this historically-close race. With only 165 votes between the two candidates out of more than 2.2 million cast, Virginians need to know that the results are as accurate as humanly possible.””Recounting a race this close is simply the prudent thing to do. Virginians like a quick resolution to our elections. I know I certainly do. But we must take the time to be sure that each and every legitimate vote is counted. Virginians deserve no less.”


Attorney General-elect Mark Herring released the following statement regarding Senator Mark Obenshain’s announcement that he intends to seek a recount:

“It is within Senator Obenshain’s right to pursue electoral victory to an ultimate conclusion beyond the original count, canvass and certification. His tactics, however, will not impede our efforts to build the finest team to serve all Virginians in the Office of Attorney General or prepare for the 2014 legislative session.”


  • In the last decade, only 0.1% of statewide races across America have been altered by a recount (3 races total);
  • In all three cases in which the recount changed the winner following certification, the Democratic candidate won: Governor Christine Gregoire in Washington, Senator Al Franken in Minnesota, and Auditor of Accounts Tom Salmon in Vermont;
  • Herring for Attorney General lead counsel Marc Elias and his firm Perkins Coie represented both Governor Gregoire and Senator Franken’s recount efforts;
  • The Attorney General’s recount in Virginia in 2005 only moved 37 votes and several changes have been made to Virginia’s election laws in an effort to address actual or potential problems.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Election 2013, Elections, Politics, State Politics

Tags: , , , ,


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