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Recount In Virginia Attorney General Race To Be Unlike Any Previous Effort

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Mark Herring says that he's Virginia's attorney general-elect, but Republican Mark Obenshain isn't yet ready to concede.
(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Mark Herring says that he's Virginia's attorney general-elect, but Republican Mark Obenshain isn't yet ready to concede.

Adding up the votes in the hotly contested race for attorney general in Virginia — Democrat Mark Herring is ahead of Republican Mark Obenshain by just over 160 votes of 2.2 million cast — will be about more than numbers.

As registrars across the commonwealth prepare for a recount in the race, one thing is becoming becoming clear — this recount will be unlike any other statewide recount in Virginia history.

"I think it's true that most people, when they envision a recount, they think of Florida and holding up ballots looking for hanging chads or counting each individual ballots one by one, and that was, you know, old technology," says Alexandria registrar Tom Parkins.

In Virginia, everything old is new again. Paper ballots were replaced by electronic machines that have now been replaced by… paper ballots. And unlike the last recount for the attorney general race back in 2005 — in which the candidates were separated by just over 300 votes — this recount will actually feed all those paper ballots back through the machines again.

Flipping through her record of the last recount in 2005, Arlington County registrar Linda Lindberg says that eight years ago, none of the paper ballots were fed through the machine again. Instead, the numbers that were reported to the state were crosschecked with the numbers that were reported from the precincts. This time, she says, things will be different.

"It's probably likely, based on the type of motions that the campaigns would make to the court, that we might be required to program the scanners so that they separate the undervotes," she explains.

Several years ago, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation to encourage paper ballots. That means that more and more jurisdictions have been doing away with the old electronic systems, and that means more paper ballots to check. Most of the action will be with the undervotes

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