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With all votes counted in Virginia, Democrat Mark Herring leads Republican Mark Obenshain by the narrowest of margins in the fight to become Virginia's next attorney general: 163 votes.
The Virginia State Board of Elections reported on Tuesday evening that Herring's lead had dropped from 117 to 106 votes, but The Washington Post reported Wednesday that a final count of provisional ballots in Fairfax County expanded that lead to 163 votes out of 2.2 million cast.
Herring took Tuesday's lead as a cue to formally declare victory, saying in a statement that “voters in Virginia have spoken, their voices have been heard and I am honored to have won their votes and their trust to become Virginia’s next Attorney General.
“Over the course of the past week, a thorough and extensive process has ensured that every vote has been tallied and accounted for. The margin was close, but it is clear that Virginians have chosen me to serve as the next Attorney General," he added.
Obenshain, for his part, said in a statement that it is too early to claim victory or defeat, and that a step remains before a conclusive vote count can be declared.
"We owe it to the people of Virginia to make sure we get it right, and that every legitimate vote is counted and subject to uniform rules," he said.
"We have seen significant swings in the vote count over the last several days as errors are corrected as a part of the regular canvass process. The State Board of Elections will now conduct its own review and we will await their results. I thank our dedicated election officials who have put in long hours and given great care to their duty. We will make further announcements in the days ahead," he noted.
The State Board will complete its review by Nov. 25, after which a recount will likely take place. That means a winner probably won't emerge until late December, though it's unlikely a recount would change the outcome.
"Typically speaking, you want to be ahead after the canvas going into the recount because you've got a good shot at holding on to the lead," says Geoff Skelley, analyst for the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
Regardless of the final result, the race is on target to be the closest in the commonwealth's history — in a 2005 race for attorney general, Bob McDonnell won by 323 votes of the 1.94 million cast.