Ballot revisions for the Virginia AG race between Republican Mark Obenshain and Democrat Mark Herring have been coming fast and furious over the last couple of days, but they've done little to dent Obenshain's initial margin. Currently, the vote count remains in Obenshain's favor by 777 votes.
Provisional ballots still need to be counted, but most observers believe that there aren't nearly enough provisionals to give Herring a chance of overcoming a nearly 800 vote lead. Essentially, Herring needed a miracle to pull off the win.
Well, that miracle appears to have arrived in the form of a vote-losing clusterfuck. Due to some great digging by Dave Wasserman (Cook Political Report), it appears that election officials have acknowledged some huge irregularities with respect to counting of absentee ballots in Fairfax county that, if borne out, likely swings the race to the Democrats. Follow me below for the details...
Here are the numbers for absentee ballot requests and absentee ballots counted for the three congressional districts in Fairfax county.
Virginia-11: 13,354 absentee ballot requests/11,503 returned votes: 86.1% return rate
Virginia-10: 7,665 absentee ballot requests/6,782 returned votes: 88.4% return rate.
Virginia-08: 8,387 absentee ballot requests/4,168 returned votes: 49.7% return rate.
It's quite obvious that something especially fishy is going on here, as there is no plausible explanation for a return rate that low in VA-08, and that there are likely around 3,000 votes missing in action. The Republican Secretary of the Fairfax Election Board agrees and has said that he will look into the discrepancy.
Brian W. Schoeneman @BrianSchoenemanThe upshot? VA-08 happens to be a heavily Democratic district and, given a ballot return rate similar to the other districts, Herring would likely gain about 1,500 votes, enough to almost certainly put him in the lead prior to the inevitable recount. If all goes well, this would be HUGE--it would hand Virginia Democrats a clean sweep of the top 3 spots on the Virginia ballot, and give Governor-Elect McAuliffe's a lot more leeway in dealing with many important issues such as women health and voting rights.
@Redistrict @notlarrysabato I've talked to the GR and we are working on this as we speak - I am convinced now too that there is an issue
4:28 AM PT: It appears that Fairfax voting officials have confirmed that there is a big problem with the count and votes are clearly missing. Fairfax Co. voter registrar Cameron Quinn concedes in email Dave Wasserman obtained that VA-08 absentee totals are wrong.
Quinn quote: "I suspect there are machine totals that either didn’t print tapes, or didn’t show full tallies on the tapes. I expect that the Electoral Board will make figuring out what happened the first order of business in the morning."
Wasserman has updated his spreadsheet and projects a 1535 vote swing with new votes counted, good for a 758 vote Herring lead! Again, this is just a projection, but Wasserman really knows his stuff...
7:37 AM PT: Fairfax election officials are apparently meeting as we speak to look into the source of the error.
Also, a helpful point from kossack totallynext: The likelihood of the ballots being lost in the mail or stolen and stuffed in a laundry truck or forgotten under a pile of coats somewhere is low in this case, as most absentee ballots are cast in person in Fairfax County (about 75%). This makes canvasses of absentee votes easier to track.
So good news in that it should be easier to sleuth out and fix the discrepancy.
10:48 AM PT: The process is chugging along. Fairfax County has tweeted that they continue to canvass votes.
But there is some negative news. According to Ben Tribbett (notlarrysabato), apparently a Republican leaning district, Bedford, has made corrections which will pad Obenshain's lead.
Ben Tribbett @notlarrysabato
Bedford County +432 for Obenshain. #bedfordblast This puts Obenshain up just over 1,000 before the #7CornersSurprise is counted.
This makes it more difficult for Herring to overcome the lead, but if Wasserman's calculations are correct, Herring will still come away with the lead. Barring any other changes, of course....