Chesapeake forced to manually recount ballots

Jordan Crawford | 12/12/2013, 9:42 a.m.
The state Board of Elections has informed Chesapeake city officials that 61,000 paper ballots must be rallied manually.

In the upcoming recount of Virginia’s attorney general election results, Chesapeake’s 61,000 paper ballots must be tallied manually, the state Board of Elections has told city officials.

According to Chesapeake General Registar William “Al” Spradlin, it’s because the city’s optical scanning equipment cannot segregate ballots that were undervoted – didn’t vote in all races - or overvoted - voted for too many candidates.

Instructions from a three-judge panel overseeing the recount indicated those ballots must be singled out for examination, Spradlin said.

Democrat Mark Herring was certified with a victory of 165 votes out of 2.2 million cast in the Nov. 5 election, close enough for his opponent, Republican Mark Obenshain, to request the recount.

Spradlin estimates it will take two to three days to hand-count the ballots. The statewide recount begins Dec. 16 in Fairfax County and the next day in the rest of the commonwealth.

“They’d like us to do it in a day,” Spradlin said, “but that can’t be done. It’s physically impossible.”

He said the Chesapeake electoral board will assemble a team of 40, half Democrats and half Republicans, to count the ballots. The two campaigns have been asked to submit names of those they want on the teams. All must have worked as election officials at the November election.

The new temporary jail on Albemarle Drive will be the site for the Chesapeake recount, Spradlin said, because of its proximity to the Circuit Court and because it has a room large enough to accommodate both teams.

Virginia Beach and Norfolk used touch-screen voting machines, which record votes on internal memory cards and print out the results. Their recounts will compare the printouts with the totals reported to the Board of Election last month. Election officials in those cities said the recounts should take a day.

Suffolk reported four of its 28 precincts used optical scanning machines with paper ballots. A programmer is coming Friday to prepare officials to read the ballots.

Portsmouth election officials didn't respond to queries about their handling of the recount.