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Republican Mark Obenshain Petitions For Recount In Attorney General Race

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State Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, Republican candidate for Attorney General, gestures during a new conference at the Capitol Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, in Richmond.
(AP Photo/Steve Helber)
State Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, Republican candidate for Attorney General, gestures during a new conference at the Capitol Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, in Richmond.

State senator Mark Obenshain is petitioning the Richmond Circuit Court for a recount in the hotly contested race for attorney general against Democrat Mark Herring. Northern Virginia reporter Michael Pope has the story.

Richmond Chief Judge Bradley Cavedo is now overseeing the recount as part of a three-judge panel. The other two judges will be appointed by the chief justice of the Virginia Supreme Court next week.

More than 700,000 paper ballots will be run through scanners again to identify undervotes — those are the ballots where the machine did not register a vote for attorney general.

The Obenshain campaign estimates the recount will unearth anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 undervotes — a pile of paper ballots that will include all kinds of marks that were not picked up by the machines, people circling names for example or drawing an X next to one of the candidate's names.

"Of the four statewide races in the 21st century within a 300 vote margin, three of those four have been overturned in a recount," says Obenshain spokesman Paul Logan.

In a result that has been certified by the Virginia State Board of Elections, the margin of victory is only 165 votes out of 2.2 million cast. That makes it the closest margin in a statewide race in modern Virginia political history.

Because the margin of victory is less than one half of one percent, taxpayers will pay for the recount of votes, which will work much differently than the recount for attorney general that happened back in 2005.

In that election, Democrat Creigh Deeds wanted to have all paper ballots run through scanners again. But a judge denied that request, and Republican Bob McDonnell won the election. Deeds returned to the state Senate, where he introduced legislation to change how recounts work.

In this recount, all paper ballots will be run through the scanners again — a process that's expected to identify votes that were not registered by the machine on Election Day.

University of Mary Washington professor Stephen Farnsworth says with numbers that close, a recount is entirely expected and appropriate. Still, he doesn't expect the result to change.

"Historically recounts have shown an ability to move the numbers by a dozen or two dozen votes at most. It's unlikely that the final outcome is going to change," he says.

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