As things stand now, Sen. Mark Herring, D-Leesburg, is the Attorney General-elect of Virginia, having beaten Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, by a razor-thin margin of 165 votes — the closest statewide race ever in modern Virginia history.
However, Obenshain has exercised his right to a taxpayer-funded recount. That’s understandable, given that more than 2.2 million votes were cast statewide, and the miniscule number of votes separating them.
The question is, how’s that recount going to end up? You challenge today is two-fold. First, name the ultimate winner of the race. Second, pick the number of votes that separate them once the recount’s concluded. Third (the tiebreaker) is, pick the date of the final final determination.
The deadline for entries is Dec. 6, and they should look like this:
2. 67 votes
3. Dec. 17
It might be useful to review what happened the last time the AG’s race has ended under a cloud — aka an extremely close election. That was in 2005, when 1,943,250 votes were cast overall.
• The official certified tally put then-Del. Bob McDonnell ahead of Sen. Creigh Deeds by 323 votes. Deeds asked for a recount, and that started Dec. 20.
• By December 22, the Board of Elections confirmed McDonnell as the winner, and his final tally actually grew by 37 votes, putting him at 360 more than Deeds.
• During the recount, Deeds sought to have all 500,000 optical-scan ballots recounted. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the State Board of Elections turned down that request, however, and recounted only 7,800 optical scan ballots. Those were from nine precincts in Lynchburg and Gloucester County that had demonstrated some counting irregularities on Election Day. That’s where McDonnell picked up the 37 extra votes.
Since then, the General Assembly has passed additional laws governing recount procedures — and they’ve changed materially. Now, ALL optical scan ballots must be recounted. That could work in Obenshain’s favor — a general rule in these matters holds that the candidate behind wants to recount as many ballots as possible.
Here’s an excerpt regarding the current recounting procedure, cut and pasted from the Virginia Code:
1. For paper ballots: The recount officials shall hand count the ballots using the standards promulgated by the State Board pursuant to subsection A.
2. For direct recording electronic machines (touch screens): The recount officials shall open the envelopes with the printouts and read the results from the printouts. If the printout is not clear, or on the request of the court, the recount officials shall rerun the printout from the machine or examine the counters as appropriate.
3. For optical scan tabulators: The recount officials shall rerun all the ballots through a tabulator programmed to count only the votes for the office or issue in question in the recount and to set aside all ballots containing write-in votes, overvotes, and undervotes. The ballots that are set aside, any ballots not accepted by the tabulator, and any ballots for which a tabulator could not be programmed to meet the programming requirements of this subdivision, shall be hand counted using the standards promulgated by the State Board pursuant to subsection A. If the total number of paper ballots reported as counted by the tabulator plus the total number of ballots set aside by the tabulator do not equal the total number of ballots rerun through the tabulator, then all ballots cast on optical scan equipment for that precinct shall be set aside to be counted by hand using the standards promulgated by the State Board pursuant to subsection A. Prior to running the ballots through the tabulator, the recount officials shall ensure that logic and accuracy tests have been successfully performed on each tabulator after the tabulator has been programmed. The result calculated for ballots accepted by the tabulator during the recount shall be considered the correct determination for those ballots unless the court finds sufficient cause to rule otherwise.
4. There shall be only one redetermination of the vote in each precinct.