Out of the top three races in Virginia this year, only the race for attorney general was close. Republican candidate Mark Obenshain currently holds a very narrow lead. Last week an issue developed surrounding provisional ballots that were cast in Fairfax County, a heavily Democratic area. In response, the Republican controlled State Board of Elections has issued a controversial ruling. One clearly designed to hand the race to Obenshain.
The Washington Post reported on Thursday that Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) discovered a problem with provisional ballots. Fairfax county has three congressional districts. In other sections of the county, over 80 percent of provisional ballots were returned. In Connolly’s district the number was about 50 percent.
On Friday the Fairfax County Electoral Board discovered that there were about 2,000 ballots unaccounted for. After an investigation, the board released a statement on Saturday. The statement says that after a review the board found that there were about 3,200 votes which had not been included in the final tally. At that point, Obenshain was ahead by about 1,300 votes out of 2.2 million votes cast. The majority of those provisional votes are likely to be Democratic and would very likely hand the election to Mark Herring, the Democrat.
Coincidentally, on Friday, the (again) Republican controlled Virginia State Board of Elections voted to change the rules. for Fairfax County. What are the chances that this change wouldn’t help the Republican win?
Notwithstanding the provisions of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (§ 2.2-3700 et seq.), attendance at meetings of the electoral board to determine the validity of provisional ballots shall be permitted only for the authorized representatives provided for in this subsection, for the persons whose provisional votes are being considered and their representative or legal counsel, and for appropriate staff and legal counsel for the electoral board.
Now the state elections board says that if legal representatives are present, the voters who cast the ballots must also be present. In other words, those voters have to come back a second time. That’s assuming they even know they’re supposed to come back. I think you can see where this is going.
Fairfax County has allowed representatives of voters for years
Fairfax County election officials say they have permitted advocates for voters in the past. They have stopped the practice following the state board’s ruling. Nothing odd about that at all. Really.
WTOP radio spoke to State Board of Elections Secretary Don Palmer. Palmer said that the office of the Attorney General advised them that their interpretation of the statute was correct. Palmer added that they have interpreted the law this way in the past. Who is Virginia’s current attorney general? The just-defeated GOP candidate for governor, Ken Cuccinelli. Nothing to see here, Virginia. Move along.
A report by WJLA TV says that the Fairfax County board voted over the weekend to accept 357 ballots. No ballots have been rejected as of yet. Obenshain’s lead currently stands at 17 votes. Voters who cast provisional ballots need to contact their local election office before November 12 to make sure that their vote is counted.
Here’s the report from WJLA: