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How A Recount Works in Virginia Politics

With only 226 votes between unofficial winner Bryce Reeves and incumbent senator Edd Houck, a recount is almost guaranteed. But how does it work?

If Edd Houck is going to request a recount of the unofficial 226-vote loss to Republican Bryce Reeves, he must do so within 10 days from the day the State Board of Elections certifies the results of the 17th District Senate race.

Power in the state senate hinges on this race. If Reeves wins, there would be a 20-20 tie in the Senate, and Lt. Gov. Bill Boiling, a Republican, would cast the tie-breaking votes. If Houck wins, Democrats retain a majority.

Typically, the results are certified the day following Election Day. Any candidate can request a recount if he or she loses by 1-percent or less of the total votes. Unofficial stats show Houck lost to Reeves by a slim margin. The latest results, posted shortly after 3 p.m., from the Virginia State Board of Elections shows Reeves with a lead over Houck of 22,608 to 22,382. The 226 vote margin is still less than 1-percent of the total votes cast in the race.

Houck would have to petition the circuit courts in Richmond and Spotsylvania County. The State Board of Elections then becomes responsible for safeguarding the ballots by sealing them in boxes and locking them in a vault. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia will pick two judges to sit with the chief judge on the recount court.

Within five days of the recount petition, the chief judge of the circuit court will call a preliminary hearing where each party can inspect electronic voting machines used in the election and have access to pollbooks used during the election. The chief judge also can name the location for the recount.

Houck and Reeves would then select the same number of election officers to be on their recount teams to count ballots. The recount court determines how many election officials the candidates can pick to recount the votes. Each candidate also can pick one person to observe the other candidate's recount team as it counts the ballots.

When all votes are counted again and both sides have already inspected any votes that are in question, the recount court will rule on the questioned ballots and announce an official winner. The recount court's decision cannot be appealed.

Taxpayers in Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Culpeper, Albermarle, Louisa and Orange counties pay for the recount if the difference is less than a half-percent.

With only one precinct left, Houck appeared to be winning the race. But Spotsylvania County electoral officials discovered an error in the rural Livingston District that pushed Reeves's vote total ahead of Houck. Election officials still had provisional votes that needed to be counted today, according to the Washington Post. The vote canvas began this morning.

Reeves early Wednesday morning raised his hands in victory, but Houck said the contest isn't over. On his Facebook page, Houck wrote:

"As I write, the outcome of yesterday's election is not complete with the proper legal procedures being implemented to ensure all votes are accurately counted to remove any doubt of the final result. What is not in doubt is my heartfelt appreciation for all of the support I have received from family, friends and colleagues. All of you have been fantastic! Stay tuned to get the final results."

The State Board of Elections has online the code sections that govern elections.

State Code also explains how the recount works in Virginia.

Angela Bruce November 10, 2011 at 03:59 PM
I am not sure why Edd just cant face the fact that HE LOST this race. Why spend the taxpayers money to find out? Why spend unnessecary taxpayers money in a rough and slow ecomony? Edd Houck is "out touch", "extreme", and "extemely out of touch". Not to mention a sore loser!

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