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Recount In Virginia Attorney General Race To Begin Dec. 16

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The state Board of Elections has certified the victory of Democrat Mark Herring, but a recount is pending.
(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
The state Board of Elections has certified the victory of Democrat Mark Herring, but a recount is pending.

Democrat Mark Herring has a 165-vote edge over Republican Mark Obenshain in the closest statewide race in modern Virginia political history — one that's likely be be resolved at last later this month.

The recount in the hotly-contested race for Virginia attorney general has been set to begin Monday Dec. 16 at 7 a.m. sharp in Fairfax County. That's a day earlier than the rest of the state, because of its vast population and array of different voting machines. The rest of Virginia will begin the recount on Tuesday, Dec. 17.

Because a handful of jurisdictions have electronic tabulators that are unable to meet state laws governing recounts, ballots in those jurisdictions will be hand counted. The mechanics of the recount are likely to take about three days. And then a three-judge panel will make a determination on all disputed ballots. After that, the winner of a recount will be determined.

Some Democrats are warning that Obenshain might try to contest the election in the heavily Republican General Assembly, but Herring says he doubts that will happen after certification and a recount.

"Going to a partisan controlled General Assembly to overturn the popular vote after all that would be an extraordinary act that no evidence shows would be appropriate," Herring says.

Most of the jurisdictions in Virginia, including Arlington, have direct recording electronic voting machines known as DREs. Those jurisdictions will compare the numbers reported from the precincts to the registrars on the day of the election with the numbers reported to the State Board of Elections.

That means most of the action in the recount will happen in jurisdictions that cast paper ballots, including Fairfax County.

University of Mary Washington professor Stephen Farnsworth says the process has highlighted a weakness in Virginia's current system.

"This process has already, I think, demonstrated the need for Virginia to have a statewide system of consistent equipment," Farnsworth says.

"This is the lesson that comes out of Florida. When you have different machines in different places, you make it a lot harder to make the case that every vote in every precinct is as likely to be counted."

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