Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Sweep . . . ?

Woke up this morning to find that Mark Herring had taken an extremely narrow lead--541 votes--in the race for Virginia Attorney General, with 3 out of 2,558 precincts yet to report. A recount may be inevitable.

Having participated in the recount in the 2005 Attorney General's race, there may be little point in the exercise. Thats because the touch screen voting machine by many, perhaps even most, Virginia jurisdictions does not use paper ballots. All these machines leave is printout on a roll of paper like that used in a cash register. At the end of an election, these "receipts" are printed out and totaled up. A "recount" of these machines consists of looking at the receipts, checking to see that the numbers were written down correctly and added correctly on the reporting form. Occasionally a math error or transcription error are found, but in 2005 these errors were not enough to alter the outcome.

A wrinkle this time around is that some jurisdictions have started to use optical scan balloting machines which do leave a trail of paper ballots. Will Obenshain ask for a manual recount of the scanned forms? Maybe.

The next step is waiting for the last 3 precincts to report, waiting for the State Board of Elections to certify the results, and then performing the recount if Obenshain decides to request one. In 2006, George F. Allen lost to Jim Webb by a narrow margin of just 9,000 votes or thereabouts and, understanding the essential pointlessness of recounting the touch screen machine "receipts," he declined a recount. The Herring-Obenshain race is much narrower, and I would think that Obenshain will almost certainly demand a recount--but it isn't likely to help him.

So maybe, just possibly, the Democratic Party may have pulled off a sweep--an incredibly narrow and messy sweep--but there is a lot of waiting and the hard work of a recount ahead, so it isn't nearly as sweet as many of us had hoped for.


Thaddæus Toad said...

Thanks JC. while Herring holds a narrow lead, aren't the remaining precincts Obenshain territory? Can he make up the votes with Mecklenberg? Also, provisionals would likely favor Herring. Could we be looking at another 2005 AG race? Where McDonnel pulled out a <400 victory over Creigh?

Staff said...

Unfortunately yes, you are correct Thadd. It could very easily turn out that way. It will be six weeks before we know anything.