(RICHMOND, Va.) -- Republican Mark Obenshain officially requested a recount in the razor-thin Virginia Attorney General race Wednesday morning, starting a process that will leave a cloud of uncertainty hanging over this race in the weeks to come.
Obenshain is behind Democrat Mark Herring by 165 votes out of 2.2 million cast, according to election results certified by the state Monday.
However, the recount is not expected to begin until mid-December, and would last between one and three days, the Obenshian campaign said on Wednesday.
“Our approach to this process is not to seek out areas that would favor us,” said Stephen C. Piepgrass, one of Obenshain’s legal representatives. “We’re not cherry picking votes in this process.”
After leading in the early days after the Nov. 5 election, the Obenshain camp is hoping that a recount could produce enough changes to the results that it would swing them back in their favor.
According to the Obenshain campaign, in the four statewide elections in the U.S. after 2000 that were decided by fewer than 300 votes, three of those four were overturned in a recount.
“It is within Senator Obenshain’s right to pursue electoral victory to an ultimate conclusion beyond the original count, canvass and certification,” Herring said in a statement on Tuesday. “His tactics, however, will not impede our efforts to build the finest team to serve all Virginians in the Office of Attorney General or prepare for the 2014 legislative session.”
In a statewide recount, a three-person “recount court” headed by the Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Virginia will convene to oversee and establish the rules of the process.
Every ballot cast in the state will be recounted. And due to a change in the law after the 2005 gubernatorial race, optical ballots will be re-run through ballot machines. Those ballots that can’t be rerun for any reason will be counted by hand, adding to the potential that the recount could significantly change the election results.
The campaign cited one analyst’s estimate that between 25,000 and 50,000 “under votes” will also receive additional scrutiny in this process. “Under votes” are ballots where a voter did not select a candidate for all offices on the ballot either because they left it blank or the machine didn’t register their selection: for example, a voter may have selected a candidate for governor, but not lieutenant governor.
Absentee ballots and provisional ballots will also be counted by hand. And any disputes will be resolved by the recount court in Richmond.
In most areas, the Obenshain campaign said they expect the recount to take one day, but it may require additional days in a few larger jurisdictions.
“We look forward to a process that is civil, that is fair, that respects the law and gives Virginia voters confidence in the ultimate result,” said Paul Logan, communications director for Obenshain.
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