With the AG’s race so close, there’s a lot of stuff floating around out there about recounts. A quick summary of the rules can be found in this document (pdf) from the State Board of Elections. The high points:
- What’s happening right now is NOT a recount. Right now, electoral boards across the state are conducting what is known as a canvass. They are looking at the reported totals and making sure they have reported them correctly. This is a normal process, conducted after every election, generally without much scrutiny. The only reason it’s so high profile this year is because of the closeness of the AG’s race, just as it was in 2005. It can take several days for each locality to conduct its canvass. Brian Schoeneman of the Fairfax County Electoral Board said he expects his locality’s canvass “to take until Saturday, but that’s a very, very rough guess.” I saw a reference somewhere that in 2005, McDonnell was leading after the polls closed by about 2,000 votes. The final tally was a 323-vote win.
- SBE must certify the election results before a recount can be requested. SBE is given time between Election Day and the date the results are certified to review and correct its compilation of voting results. Obviously, they have to incorporate the changes from the canvasses. And they have to correct their own mistakes in data entry. Lots of opportunity for human error here, folks, and the SBE wants the numbers to be right. The 11/5 election results will be certified on the last Monday in November, which is November 25. § 24.2-679
- Recounts are not automatic. A recount can be requested by the apparent non-winner if certain criteria is met. For statewide races, the margin between the apparent winner and the apparent non-winner has to be not more than 1%. § 24.2-800
- Petition for recount must be filed within 10 days after the results are certified. That window this year is 11/26/13 – 12/5/13. The petition must be filed in the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond for statewide candidates. § 24.2-801
- The recount itself. I haven’t located a source on the timing of this but obviously it has to be after the petition is filed and found to be legitimate. And then there will be some wrangling by the candidates. In 2005, the recount did not start until December 20. There are different rules for the recount process, depending on the type of ballots used. If paper ballots are used, they are to be recounted by hand. For DRE machines, the envelope containing the printout of the ballot results is opened. For opscans, they are re-run. § 24.2-802 (It is worth noting that this was not the procedure used in 2005 – this article points out that the judicial panel rejected Deed’s motion to have the opscan ballots re-run.)
- Who pays for the recount? If the difference between the candidates is less than 1/2 of 1%, the
state payslocalities pay. If more than .5%, the one filing the petition for the recount pays (paragraph E, § 24.2-802). Of course, there are other costs associated with a recount that are not the actual recount costs assessed by the state. Those are the costs that the candidates have to pay – and that’s why your email is blowing up with requests for money.
So there you have it, folks. This is not a quick process that is going to be resolved in a couple of days, so stop refreshing the SBE and VPAP pages every five minutes 🙂 If we have a recount, we won’t know the winner of the AG contest until mid-December, at the earliest. (If there is no recount, the earliest we will know the winner is really 12/6, the day after the window for filing the recount petition expires.)