November 9, 2011
Elections officials could be found canvassing votes Wednesday throughout Virginia to make sure they're correct, a process especially important in Albemarle County after a tight 17th District Senate race in Virginia.
One day after the election, after nearly 45,000 ballots were cast, businessman and Republican challenger Bryce Reeves is leading longtime incumbent Edd Houck by the minuscule margin of 224 votes, in a district that includes parts of Albemarle, Culpeper, Louisa and Orange counties.
"That is rare to see something come out that close, especially in a larger district," said Valerie L'Herrou, Chair of the Albemarle County Democratic Committee.
The county election board is crunching the numbers to make sure all the vote tallies are correct. While necessary, it's a process Rachel Schoenewald, Chair of the Albemarle County Republican Committee, would have liked to avoid.
"To have to go to a recount and have it delayed is always really tough on everyone. So I would wish for it to be decisive," she said.
And the stakes couldn't be higher. If Houck keeps his seat the Democrats will hold a 21-19 advantage over Republicans in the State Senate. However, if Reeves unseats the seven-term Senator, the body will be deadlocked at 20-20, with Republican Lt. Governor Bill Bolling casting the tiebreaking vote.
"Having that extra tie vote means Governor Bob McDonnell's plans, the (Republican-controlled) House of Delegates' plans and the Senate's plans can really move forward," Schoenewald explained.
Depending on the outcome of the canvassing, the loser could request a recount. Under Virginia law the losing candidate can request a recount only when the difference between the apparent winner and loser is one percent of the total votes cast for the two.
As for the campaigns, Houck's believes the race is not over. In a statement to CBS19 officials say they're keeping close tabs on the canvassing process, and they still have faith their candidate will serve an eighth term as senator.
Reeves tweeted about the results Tuesday night: "Friends - the results are deemed official just now at this point by SBE and we won! Thanks to everyone for your prayers and support!"
A recount court would outline the manner in which the recount will be conducted for each type of voting equipment used. That court is comprised of the chief judge of the Circuit Court where the recount petition was filed and two other judges appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia.