VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) – Elections officials resumed their recount of votes Friday morning in one of two unresolved races in Virginia that will settle whether Republicans have reclaimed the majority in the state’s House of Delegates and completed a party sweep of last month’s contests.
Republican and Democratic party representatives are taking part in the second counting of ballots requested by Democratic Del. Alex Askew, who went into the recount trailing Republican Karen Greenhalgh by just 127 votes out of 28,413 counted in the 85th House District in the city of Virginia Beach.
The recount is expected to finish up before a 10 a.m. Friday hearing in Virginia Beach Circuit Court, where a three-judge panel is expected to declare an official winner, Circuit Court Clerk Tina Sinnen said.
Askew and fellow Democratic Del. Martha Mugler of the 91st District requested recounts after certified results from the Nov. 2 election showed their GOP challengers leading by razor-thin margins. The recount in the 91st District, which covers the cities of Hampton and Poquoson, and York County, is expected to take place next Tuesday and Wednesday.
Republicans - who won 52 districts, according to the certified results - have said they are confident their candidates’ leads will hold.
Throughout the day Thursday and into Friday, people packed into a room in the second floor of an elections building in Virginia Beach as the ballots from the 85th District were fed into the two scanning machines. Groups of people sat at tables and scrutinized any ballots that were determined by the machines to have write-in candidates, were not clearly marked or had some other issue.
By day’s end on Thursday, the group had worked through approximately 20,000 ballots cast in person on Election Day, and only one ballot had been designated for a challenge.
Officials on Friday were still conducting a recount all of the city’s early-voting and mail-in ballots - about 54,000 - to ensure that they had accounted for all of the approximately 8,000 such ballots that were meant for the 85th District.
Jeffrey Marks, the GOP chair of the city’s electoral board, said Thursday night that both sides will present challenge ballots to the panel, and the judges will decide how each challenge ballot should be counted.
If the recounts confirm the Republicans’ victories in both the 85th and 91st Districts, it will mark a GOP sweep in last month’s election, when its candidates claimed the statewide offices of governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. Those wins were a dramatic turnaround in a state where the GOP had not won a statewide race since 2009.
Virginia’s top elections official, Chris Piper, has said the recounts are unlikely to change the outcomes of the races because of the size of the margins. Both Askew and Mugler would have to win for the House to be tied 50-50, forcing Democrats and Republicans to hash out a power-sharing agreement.
Before her recount, Mugler trailed Republican A.C. Cordoza by 94 votes out of 27,388 counted. The Associated Press hasn’t called either race.
Both Mugler and Askew are incumbent freshmen who were first elected in 2019, when Democrats flipped both the House and Senate.
Recounts in Virginia are not automatic and must be requested. Because the margins in the Askew-Greenhalgh and Mugler-Cordoza races were under 0.5%, the costs will be covered by the state.
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