Virginia House control in balance as vote recount begins

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – One of the two outstanding vote recounts that will settle whether Virginia Republicans have reclaimed the majority in the House of Delegates is set to get underway Thursday in Virginia Beach.

Elections officials and representatives from both parties are expected to take part in the secondary counting of ballots requested by Democratic Del. Alex Askew, who currently represents the 85th House District.

Askew and fellow Democratic Del. Martha Mugler of the 91st District requested recounts after certified results from the Nov. 2 election showed their GOP challengers ahead by razor-thin margins.

Republicans – who won 52 districts, according to the certified results – have said they are confident their candidates’ leads will hold.

If the party does hold on to both wins, it will mark a GOP sweep in last month’s election, when its candidates claimed the statewide offices of governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. Those wins marked a dramatic turnaround in a state where the GOP had not won a statewide race since 2009.

Virginia’s top elections official, Chris Piper, has said the recounts are unlikely to change the outcomes of the races because of the size of the margins. If both Askew and Mugler were declared winners through the recounts, the House would be tied 50-50, forcing Democrats and Republicans to hash out a power-sharing agreement.

Askew currently trails Republican Karen Greenhalgh by 127 votes out of 28,413 counted. Mugler trails Republican A.C. Cordoza by 94 votes out of 27,388 counted. The Associated Press hasn’t called either race.

The recount in the 91st District, which covers the cities of Hampton and Poquoson and York County, is expected to take place next week, on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Both Mugler and Askew are incumbent freshmen who were first elected in 2019, when Democrats flipped both the House and Senate.

Recounts in Virginia are not automatic and must be requested. Because the margins in the Askew-Greenhalgh and Mugler-Cordoza races were under 0.5%, the costs will be covered by the state.

The process that will unfold beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday will involve sending the district’s ballots through a high-speed scanner, said deputy registrar Christine Lewis. Any ballots with irregularities will be set aside to be scrutinized by hand.

On Friday, any ballots either side decides to challenge will be presented to a three-judge panel, which will go through them individually and rule on how they should be counted, Lewis said.

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.

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