Monday, February 25, 2008

A state investigation in Virginia found that there were more votes than voters for the presidential primary in Chesterfield County, the State Board of Elections said.

Problems at the polls, including long lines and handwritten ballots, led the board to investigate the county’s handling of the Feb. 12 primary.

“I have some serious questions about the total votes received by the candidates,” board secretary Nancy Rodrigues said late Thursday. “There appears to be multiple discrepancies. According to the documents, there were more ballots cast on Election Day than voters who showed up to vote.”

The county must re-evaluate its results and provide a corrected statement and an explanation for the discrepancies by 9 a.m. today. Miss Rodrigues gave no other details on the discrepancy in the number of votes.

The state board also hasn’t specified the discrepancies or what precincts were involved, said John N. Clifford, chairman of the Chesterfield Electoral Board.

“That makes it kind of hard,” he said. “It can be a very easy explanation if we know what precincts they are. We don’t know if they’re talking about off by one or off by a thousand.”

The primary results must be certified tomorrow by the state board.

County officials said 62,053 of the county’s 90,000 registered voters participated in the primaries. More than 38,000 ballots were cast for Democratic candidates, with Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois soundly beating Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, the county electoral board reported.

Nine Chesterfield precincts ran out of Democratic ballots, and election officials allowed some voters to cast ballots by writing their votes on blank pieces of paper.

Chesterfield Registrar Lawrence C. Haake III had said his order of 41,400 ballots for the Democratic primary was beyond the anticipated turnout based on past presidential primaries. The registrar’s office ordered 47,000 Republican ballots, based on historically higher participation in past Republican primaries.

Mr. Haake said the State Board of Elections is required to review his ballot order in January and is supposed to contact him if the order looks to be short.

“The bottom line is this: I think everybody was caught off-guard, and we’re just taking the heat on it,” Mr. Haake said.

Majority shrinks

The election last week of Democrat Albert C. Pollard Jr. to the Virginia House of Delegates further narrowed the Republican Party’s majority.

Mr. Pollard, who held the seat from the Northern Neck district for six years until he retired in 2005, won a special election Tuesday over Republican Lee Anne Washington. The seat became open when Robert J. Wittman won a special election for the U.S. House seat of Rep. Jo Ann Davis, who died in October.

Mr. Pollard carried the 99th District with 63 percent of the vote.

His victory means the Democrats now hold 45 seats in the House. Republicans hold 53 seats plus two independents who side with them.

During his earlier three terms, Mr. Pollard was known as an advocate for environmental, agricultural and Chesapeake Bay protection legislation.

He attempted a comeback last year in one of the most expensive state Senate races, and during a year in which Democrats reclaimed the Senate majority for the first time in 12 years.

Mr. Pollard raised $1.25 million in a bid to win the seat of retiring Sen. John H. Chichester of Northumberland, but lost to Republican Richard H. Stuart, who raised $1.1 million.

For this year’s special election, Mr. Pollard raised about $150,000 for the brief campaign to Miss Washington’s $78,000.

The district includes King George, Lancaster, Northumberland, Westmoreland and Richmond counties and part of Caroline County.

New manager

Mike Henry, ousted two weeks ago as a senior adviser to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign, will become manager of Mark Warner’s U.S. Senate campaign in Virginia.

Mr. Henry, 39, the mastermind behind Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine’s election three years ago, was the New York Democrat’s deputy campaign manager until her Feb. 12 loss in the Virginia primary to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

In addition to Virginia, Mr. Henry has worked on statewide and congressional campaigns in Florida, Illinois, Iowa and Maryland.

Mr. Henry takes over duties of acting campaign manager Monica Dixon, a former adviser to Al Gore. Miss Dixon will be a general consultant to Mr. Warner’s campaign.

Mr. Warner, 53, was Virginia’s governor from 2002 to 2006. The Democrat is running for the seat held by Sen. John W. Warner, a Republican who is retiring after six terms.

Treasurer trouble

A grand jury in Harrisonburg, Va., indicted the city’s treasurer on 20 charges stemming from an investigation into the treasurer’s office.

Rebecca Neal was charged with eight felony counts of misuse or misappropriation of public funds totaling $91,524. The felonies each carry a sentence of up to six months in prison. She also was indicted on 12 misdemeanors for altering deposits totaling $13,700.

Miss Neal turned herself in Tuesday afternoon and later was released on bail.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha L. Garst said the investigation was ongoing and more charges could be filed.

New top delegate

State lawmakers from Western Maryland elected Delegate LeRoy E. Myers Jr. to succeed former Delegate Robert A. McKee as their delegation chairman.

Mr. McKee announced his resignation from the House of Delegates on Feb. 15, shortly before the Washington County Sheriff’s Department revealed he is under investigation for purported possession of child pornography. Mr. McKee has not been charged.

Mr. McKee’s resignation took effect one week ago.

The Hagerstown Herald-Mail reported that Mr. Myers, a Republican from Washington County, was elected unanimously to the post.

Republican Delegate Susan W. Krebs of Carroll County was elected vice chairman to succeed Mr. Myers in that position.

This column is based in part on wire service reports.

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