Va. 40th District House recount set for Dec. 13-14

The Capitol building is bathed in sunlight in Richmond, Va., in this 2014 file photo. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)(Associated Press/Steve Helber)

FAIRFAX, Va. — The recount in Virginia’s 40th House District, representing parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties, will be held Dec. 13 and 14 at the Fairfax County Courthouse, a special judicial panel ruled Wednesday morning.

Republican Del. Tim Hugo leads Democratic challenger Donte Tanner by 106 votes out of more than 30,000 cast in final results that were certified by the State Board of Elections last month.

The narrow margin entitles Tanner to a recount, which is overseen by a three-judge panel. The actual counting will be done by local elections officials under the court’s direction.

In Fairfax County, two high-speed counting and sorting machines identify the absentee ballots related to this race and separate out any ballots where the scanner cannot read a proper vote. The votes illegible by the machines will be separated for Fairfax County elections officials to inspect by hand.

The Hugo and Tanner campaigns had largely agreed on the parameters of the recount before Wednesday morning’s hearing, but they did have some differences on where they wanted the counting to be done and how involved recount observers assigned by each party should be.

The Hugo campaign asked for the recount to be held in two separate locations, because of concerns that if a traffic crash happened while Prince William County ballots were being transported to Fairfax County, ballots could be destroyed accidentally. Two of the three judges on the panel who participated in the hearing said that did not warrant holding the recount in two separate places because recount officials would have to travel back and forth themselves. The judges also found that the observers should have the right to raise any potential questions about ballots to recount coordinators.

Despite agreement from the lawyers on each side, the court denied a request WTOP raised with the lawyers to allow a few photographs of the recount setup in the courthouse over concerns about photographs being shared of elections officials. Similar photographs have been allowed in past recounts.

This race is one of four where recounts are moving forward. In three of the four races, including the 94th District in Newport News where the margin is just 10 votes, Democrats trailed in the certified results.

In the 28th District, covering Stafford County and Fredericksburg, Democrat Joshua Cole has filed for a recount in his race against Republican Bob Thomas. Cole could still further challenge the results following a recount, due to hundreds of registered voters who were assigned to the wrong House districts.

In a message to supporters, Thomas said the recount in that race is tentatively set for Dec. 21.

If the recounts or other election challenges do not change any results, Republicans would hold on to control of the House of Delegates by just a 51-49 margin.

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