When I left the Democratic Victory Party at Tysons last night, Mark Herring was losing the Attorney General’s race by 12,000 votes; when I woke up, he was winning by 400; over the course of the day it has been back and forth – losing by 1,100, winning by 32, losing by 700, and now probably down by 300. What’s going on?
First, election night – when the polls close at 7pm, the election officials check the counts on the machines and paper ballots, and report the totals to the local registrar, who then reports to the State Board of Elections (SBE) – this is the first unofficial count, which may have errors – e.g., numbers are transposed (612 is reported as 162), not all precincts are reported, or absentee votes aren’t counted.
Next, today’s activity – the canvass, where the Electoral Board for each city and county reviews the reports from each precinct, including absentee ballots (often included in a Central Absentee Precinct) and compiles the totals. This is when many of the errors noted above are corrected. Some localities finish their canvasses within an hour or a few; others (e.g.Fairfax) go on for days. These totals are reported to the SBE.
Usually following immediately after the canvass, the local electoral board considers the (non-voter ID) provisional ballots – these are from people who were not allowed to vote because they were not listed as registered in the precinct, or shown as having voted an absentee ballot, or for other reasons. The Electoral Board should evaluate each situation – sometimes, e.g., the voter did register and is listed at the State Board/Department of Motor Vehicles list, but not on the precinct rolls; or the voter was erroneously purged for having moved, but did not. If valid, the Electoral Board will then add these votes to the total.
Then the Electoral Board will consider provisional ballots filed by people who did not have proper voter identification. If the voter provides proper ID – by fax, email, or in person by 12:00 noon on the Friday after the election, the vote will be counted. If not, it won’t.
Finally, the totals from each locality must be sent to the SBE by Nov. 12, 2013 and will meet to certify the final, official results on Nov. 25, 2013.
If the results are within 1%, the losing candidate can request a recount. In addition, a losing candidate can contest the results of an election based on allegations of improper conduct.
So what is happening now is the canvass and consideration of the provisional ballots. This happens every election, but we are paying much closer attention because it is so close. The primary action item is if you or someone you know has cast a provisional ballot because of a lack of voter identification, submit proof of identification by Friday 12:00 noon to have that vote counted. Also, let us know if you would like to volunteer to help monitor the proceedings and followup with provisional voters. Check the SBE Election Results webpage for updates (which may or may not be accurate), the SBE Changes chart for changes (which is currently blank) and the VPAP summary of changes (which is currently way behind), and follow @redistrict on twitter (he is doing a great job in ground-truthing precinct numbers).