In Virginia, The Count is Finished – Let the Recounting Begin!

VAAG.Certificate.jpg

[Image via Twitter courtesy of PilotOnPolitics]

The document in the image above is an election certificate. It’s what elections are, at their core, designed to produce – and the piece of paper that every candidate hopes will feature his or her name. Now that the Virginia State Board of Elections has certified the close race for Attorney General, the Commonwealth’s election community now awaits what is expected to be a recount request to resolve the almost impossibly-close race.

Fortunately, the State Board of Elections has an excellent collection of resources explaining how a recount will operate. Here’s an excerpt from a document laying out the “basics” (all citations are to the recount section of the Virginia Code – §§ 24.2-800 et seq):

A recount is a simple redetermination of all of the votes cast on Election Day. Recount officials are only counting the ballots that were previously cast. A voter’s eligibility to vote or any alleged irregularities cannot be called into question during a recount [this is covered under a separate proceeding called a “contest” – ed.]

In Virginia, there are no automatic recounts. Only an apparent losing candidate can ask for a recount, and only if the difference between the apparent winning candidate and that apparent losing candidates is not more than one percent (1%) of the total votes cast for those two candidates. (A law change effective 7/1/2009 allows a recount to be requested if the difference is not more than five percent (5%) of the total votes cast for those two candidates if one of those candidates was a write-in candidate for that office). (§ 24.2-800, Code of Virginia)

The apparent losing candidate cannot request a recount until after the election is certified. (§ 24.2-801) … An apparent losing candidate has ten calendar days from the certification date to request a recount (§ 24.2-801) …

An apparent losing candidate requesting a recount of a primary or election for statewide office files the petition requesting a recount with the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond. A candidate requesting a recount for any other office files the recount petition with the Circuit Court where the candidate being challenged resides …

The Chief Judge of the Circuit Court where the recount petition was filed and two other judges appointed by the Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Virginia make up the recount court. The recount court, outlines all procedures and the manner in which the recount will be conducted for each type of voting equipment used (pursuant to § 24.2-802 of the Code of Virginia). The court appoints recount officials from among the officers of election who served during the election, who are appointed to represent the respective parties to the recount. In setting the procedures for the recount, the court will also decide if the actual recounting of votes cast will take place in the various localities or in a central location. After all of the votes cast are recounted, the court will certify the candidate with the most votes as the winner.

The counties and cities involved in a recount are responsible for paying their own costs for the recount if the margin between the two candidates who are parties to the recount is a half of a percent or less, or if the candidate requesting the recount is declared the winner by the recount court.

During the recount, manual review of ballots will be guided by standards that deal with specific cases where a voter’s intent isn’t immediately clear.

Jurisdictions involved in the recount (in this case, all of them) will follow the State Board’s 41-page step-by-step instructions which specify the order and procedure for conducting the count and re-certifying the results.

This is going to be a fascinating experience – and one which I expect will spawn a few more posts before the end of the blogging year. Stay tuned …

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