Fairfax Co. investigating discrepancy in absentee votes

WASHINGTON – Fairfax County is investigating a voting discrepancy from Tuesday’s election that could impact who wins the attorney general’s election, which is likely headed to a recount.

Brian Schoeneman, Fairfax County Electoral Board secretary, says election officials are scouring absentee ballots cast in the 8th congressional district because too few votes were counted compared to the number of ballots cast.

“The return rate of applications to votes actually cast is usually 80 percent,” Schoeneman says. “The numbers in the 8th were about 50 percent, which is way off. And that’s what set off the red flag.”

Just 5,500 absentee ballots from the district were counted election night even though 7,200 mail-in and in-person absentee ballots had been cast as of Monday night. More mail-in ballots would have arrived Tuesday and the overall number absentee ballots cast should have increased, he says.

Election officials spent the day Friday trying to figure out what happened with a focus on two optical scan tape records, one that was included in results and one that was not included. They also planned to interview poll workers involved in the count, he says.

“The goal here is to be as transparent as possible, find out where the mistake is and correct it,” he says.

The 8th District, represented by Congressman Jim Moran, is strongly democratic and any uncounted absentee ballots could help State Sen. Mark Herring, D-Loudoun, over his Republican opponent, State Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, whose lead continued to diminish throughout the day Friday.

Unofficial, election results from the state board of elections showed as of Friday afternoon that Obenshain was ahead by a very slim margin.

A recount is expected in the race once the state certifies the votes later this month.

“We expect if that does happen, we will be do recounts in December,” Schoeneman says.

Fairfax election officials will meet at 10 a.m. Saturday to hear a final report on the absentee ballot count discrepancy.

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