- The Washington Times - Monday, November 11, 2013

Mark R. Herring took the lead in the Virginia attorney general’s race, with the focus shifting back to uncounted provisional ballots in Fairfax County as the deadline loomed Tuesday for localities to certify their election results.

Mr. Herring, a Democrat, held a lead of 1,103,610 votes to 1,103,493 over Republican Mark. D. Obenshain, according to the State Board of Elections.

A bloc of 493 outstanding provisional ballots remained to be counted in Fairfax County, where Mr. Herring took 61 percent of the vote compared to 39 percent for Mr. Obenshain.

County elections officials said that going into Tuesday the board had adjudicated 310 of the 493 provisional ballots, with 172 ballots accepted and 183 left to be adjudicated. Officials said the review would continue from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The board had until 11:59 p.m. Tuesday to certify and submit ballots to the state elections board.

“We will get it done,” Electoral Board Secretary Brian W. Schoeneman said. “Hopefully sooner rather than later.”

County elections officials spent much of the weekend adjudicating the provisional ballots, which are for voters who went to the polls on Election Day but had an issue with their voting and could not cast a regular ballot.

“In order to ensure they don’t vote twice they are given a provisional ballot that is segregated from the rest of the ballots,” Mr. Schoeneman said. “Only after an investigation and a vote of the Electoral Board are those votes either accepted or rejected. Those that are accepted are opened and counted, those that are rejected remain sealed and are never opened.”

The lead change came after GOP officials concerned about voting irregularities requested a review of some heavily Democratic precincts in Richmond. Elections personnel discovered a voting machine with ballots that had not been counted.

The Herring campaign issued a statement Monday afternoon indicating that the Democrat’s vote total “has grown steadily and he has now overtaken” Mr. Obenshain.

“We remain confident that Mark Herring will be the next Attorney General of Virginia,” Herring campaign manager Kevin O’Holleran said.

No matter which side wins, the race is almost certain to be headed to a recount. Recounts are not automatic in Virginia but can be requested in contests decided by a margin of a half percent or less.

The lead change was the latest shift in the race results since Tuesday’s election, as polling officials account for a series of adjustments and simple human errors that have changed the vote tally. Analysts say the fluctuations are routine and are often unnoticed in races decided by much larger margins.

Fairfax County had a hiccup with about 3,200 absentee ballots that were previously uncounted, but those votes were submitted to the state elections board over the weekend.

While the narrowing race has frayed some nerves and stoked frustrations, Michael P. McDonald, associate professor at George Mason University’s Department of Public and International Affairs, said some reporting errors are to be expected.

“When you have 2.2 million of people voting, inevitably there will be errors,” Mr. McDonald said, “On a daily commute in D.C. there are going be some accidents. When you have so many people doing something, inevitably there will be problems. That’s human nature.”

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