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The Virginia State Board of Elections today certified Democrat Mark Herring as the winner in the commonwealth’s attorney general race, giving Herring, an LGBT-supportive candidate, a narrow 165-vote lead out of more than 2.2 million votes cast.
Due to the closeness of the race, both candidates declared victory at points during the days following the election, as a re-canvass of votes throughout the state turned up various human or machine errors that affected the count. Election observers via Twitter also pointed out discrepancies in the return rate of absentee ballots for the state’s 8th Congressional District, after which local election officials in Democratic-leaning Fairfax County – the state’s most populous county – discovered nearly 3,000 missing absentee ballots.
Following the re-canvass of votes, Herring gained a slim lead. Fairfax County then allowed voters who had cast provisional ballots to come in person and attest to the validity of their ballots. The Fairfax county election board – controlled by Republicans 2-1 – counted 271 of 493 provisional ballots, expanding Herring’s lead.
According to The Washington Post, even though the Republican-run state election board’s decision to certify the results was unanimous, Chairman Charles E. Judd said he was ”concerned about the integrity of the data,” noting a lack of uniformity in counting votes that occurred between most locations – which reported their results by the Friday following the election – and Fairfax County, which had delayed the counting of the county’s provisional ballots to the Tuesday following the election and after the Veterans Day holiday weekend.
Following the certification, the Obenshain campaign released a statement saying it was reviewing the results.
”With the completion of the State Board of Elections vote tally, this initial count show the narrowest percent vote differential of any U.S. statewide race in the 21st century and the closest statewide election in modern Virginia history,” Obenshain’s campaign manager Chris Leavitt said in the statement. ”As it currently stands, the 165 vote margin out of more than 2.2 million votes cast is well within the margin that could be potentially closed in a recount. There have been four statewide elections in the U.S. since 2000 that finished within a 300-vote margin. In three of those four statewide elections, the results were reversed in a recount.”
”Over the next few days, we will continue to review these results. Margins this small are why Virginia law provides a process for a recount,” Leavitt continued. ”However, a decision to request a recount, even in a historically close election, is not one to be made lightly. Virginia law allows ten days to request a recount. We will make further announcements regarding a recount well within that time, in order to ensure the closure and confidence in the results that Virginians deserve.”
Under Virginia law, if the margin of victory of an election is within a point, the losing candidate has 10 days after certification to demand a recount. If the results remained unchanged, the losing candidate – in this case, Obenshain – has three days to file a formal protest contesting the election results.
The Herring campaign declared victory following the certification of the results, releasing a statement thanking the board, local voter registrars and election officials for their professionalism in overseeing the election.
”I am gratified that the State Board of Elections today certified me the winner of a close but fair election,” Herring said in the statement. ”I look forward to serving the people of Virginia as Attorney General.”
”Today, we move forward to tackle some of the unique challenges of our era which fall under the auspices of the next Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Herring continued. ”Our guiding principle will be to put the law and Virginians first, instead of adherence to extreme ideology. In the areas of public safety, veterans services, civil rights, consumer and small business protections, and ethics in our public sphere, significant progress can and will be made for Virginians.”