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Virginia Republicans Change Election Rules Midway Through Counting Votes

The 2013 election in Virginia has grabbed national attention, mostly for the battle between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Tea Party Republican and current Va. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Well, despite McAuliffe’s narrow victory over Cuccinelli the battle still rages, only this time it is for the heavily contested Attorney General race. The latest count from the Virginia State Board of Elections shows only a difference of 17 votes, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Republican Mark D. Obenshain is currently in the top position, but the narrow margin of victory made a recount inevitable.

The election in Va. also caught the attention of the nation because of the state’s controversial Voter ID law. For those voters who did not have an ID that met the stringent restrictions of the law, they were given a provisional ballot and assured that their votes would be counted. However, in light of the recount, WTOP-FM in Washington D.C. reports that “the promise from Democratic and Republican parties to make sure their ballots got counted is now no good.” The change in rules bans a long-held practice of allowing legal representatives to advocate for individual voters. Now, the voter must actually be present in court in order to have their ballot counted.

It’s the timing of the rule change that raises the most eyebrows. The ruling came down only after most of the provisional ballots in rural counties—counties more likely to lean Republican—but before the ballots have been counted in the more Democratic-leaning counties such as Fairfax. Rick Hasen posted on Election Law Blog, “it seems that the rule goes against both Fairfax County practice (which allowed legal representatives to argue for the counting of ballots rather than the voter in person), as well as Virginia’s Board of Elections posted rules.”  The results of the recount can take up to a month to certify.


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