New recount rules give Obenshain hope

11/25/2013, 3:31 p.m.
Mark Herring

By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau

A law championed by Democrat Creigh Deeds could give Republican Mark Obenshain the tools to erase Mark Herring’s 165-vote margin in Virgina’s attorney general’s race.

Deeds, who lost the AG contest to Bob McDonnell in 2005 by 360 votes, subsequently authored legislation requiring all optical scan ballots be re-run in the event of a recount, and that ballots containing write-in votes, undervotes or overvotes be hand-counted.

In 2005, the ballots were only re-run in precincts that had identified problems.

“This is new territory for Virginia and a margin well within the range in which recounts have changed the vote lead,” Obenshain spokesman Paul Logan told Watchdog.org.

Obenshain, in a statement, said that since 2000, three out of four U.S. elections with margins under 300 votes have been reversed.

Around the nation, statewide recounts between 2000 and 2009 resulted in an average margin swing of 296 votes between the frontrunners, representing 0.027 percent of the statewide vote in those elections, according to the Center for Voting and Democracy.

A total of 165 votes, 0.007 percent of the Virginia total, was Herring’s margin of victory certified Monday by the State Board of Elections.

SBE Chairman Charlie Judd said he voted to certify “with question.” He did not elaborate.

Political analyst Ben Tribbett estimates that Fairfax County has more than 5,000 undervoted ballots that will require hand examination because one or more races were unmarked or went undetected by the optical scanners.

Chesterfield County could be another pivot point. The attorney general candidates received at least 800 fewer votes there than the other contests on the ballot.

Chesterfield registrar Lawrence Haake already is under fire for failing to cancel ineligible voters before the Nov. 5 election. Obenshain carried the Richmond suburb, 55-45 percent — far less than Ken Cuccinelli’s 66-34 margin in the 2009 AG race. (See story here.)

Obenshain has 10 days in which to request a statewide recount.

Herring’s campaign did not respond to Watchdog’s request for comment about the certification or a recount.