Changes at the U.S. Postal Service may be a key reason hundreds of absentee ballots submitted across Virginia will not count — including 55 ballots in tight races in Stafford County. Former Virginia Board of Elections Secretary Don Palmer, now a fellow with the Bipartisan Policy Center focused on election improvements, said changes that added two days to standard processing times for First Class mail, among other things, have made it less likely that even ballots mailed the Friday before an election arrive in time to be counted. In Virginia, only ballots received before polls close can be counted under current law; the postmark does not matter.
Articles about voting issues in Virginia.
Democrat Joshua Cole’s campaign has filed a federal lawsuit aiming to get late-arriving absentee ballots counted in Stafford County. The legal maneuver could also delay final certification of election results long enough for Democratic lawyers to figure out whether more than 600 voters in the Fredericksburg part of the contested House of Delegates district were given the wrong ballots. Cole, who trails Republican Supervisor Bob Thomas by 82 votes in the results certified by the Stafford County and Fredericksburg electoral boards, is one of three Democrats trailing in tight House races. For now, Republicans would hang on to control of the chamber with a 51-49 majority. Del. David Toscano of Charlottesville, the House Democratic leader, said he is hopeful that the final 10-vote margin in House District 94 in Newport News could be flipped in a recount.
Although the Virginia governorship was Tuesday’s marquee race, the Virginia House of Delegates produced the day’s most surprising result. Democrats picked up at least 15 seats and reduced a 66 to 34 Republican advantage to, at most, 51 to 49. A gerrymandered chamber thought to be safely Republican suddenly became a toss-up — and may yet flip to Democratic control after all the recounts are completed. This unexpected outcome raises the question: Can gerrymandering really be such a problem if a party’s legislative edge can virtually disappear overnight? This question is especially important at present, as the Supreme Court mulls over Gill vs. Whitford, a potentially historic case about redistricting in Wisconsin. The question also has a clear answer: Of course gerrymandering is deeply troublesome even if it can be overcome, at least temporarily, by a wave election.
Three Virginia House of Delegates races are too close to call. Just 12 votes separate Republican incumbent David Yancey from democrat Shelly Simonds in the 94th District. It could mean a handful of recounts across the state will decide who controls the General Assembly for the next two years. Elections officials say the final vote count has not been finalized because elections offices in cities and counties still have a few days to count ballots. Elections offices must have a count by Wednesday to the State Board of Elections. The Board has until Nov. 20 to present a certified final tally.
Nearly a week after Election Day, Democrats and Republicans were closely monitoring three races that could determine control of Virginia’s House of Delegates. The parties were especially focused on the House seat being vacated by retiring Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford). Republican Robert Thomas is ahead of Joshua Cole by 86 votes. Democrats claim 55 absentee ballots mailed in that race by active-duty military voters went uncounted because they were left in the Stafford County registrar’s mailbox on Election Day — an account the registrar disputes. “It’s disgraceful that the registrar and two members of the Stafford County Electoral Board refuse to count military votes,” Susan Swecker, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Virginia, said in a statement.
Virginia: Vote count in close Stafford races fuels criticism, concern | Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star
Questions are swirling around two close elections in the Fredericksburg region that appear destined for recounts. In a conference call Friday, House Democratic Caucus Executive Director Trent Armitage said that 55 military ballots delivered to the Stafford County registrar’s post office box on Tuesday—Election Day—went uncounted because they were not picked up until Wednesday. Democrats said they had no way of knowing which candidates the 55 votes went for, but the ballots arrived on time and came from active-duty military personnel. “We find that to be absolutely ridiculous,” Armitage said. Stafford Supervisor Laura Sellers, a Democrat, lost her Garrisonville District seat to Republican Mark Dudenhefer by just 15 votes. And Republican Bob Thomas holds an 83-vote lead over Democrat Joshua Cole in the race for the 28th District House of Delegates seat representing parts of Fredericksburg and Stafford.
Virginia: Potential chaos ahead as control of Virginia House of Delegates hangs in balance | The Washington Post
Whether Virginia’s deep-red House of Delegates turns blue, or an awkward purple, comes down to a few dozen votes and potential handshake deals. Republicans, who held 66 of 100 seats in the lower house of the state legislature, saw their majority melt away Tuesday in a Democratic wave that felled at least 12 GOP incumbents and flipped three open seats to the Democrats — an unprecedented shift. With four races still too close to call, both parties are bracing for the messiest of all outcomes: a dead-even 50-50 split that requires power-sharing and a potentially ugly fight for the speakership. That would be triggered if Democrats pick up one of the four races that are close enough for a state-funded recount. Republicans have leads difficult to overcome in three of them, including Del. Timothy D. Hugo (R-Fairfax), who narrowly pulled ahead of his challenger after unofficial results were tallied. Del. David Yancey (R-Newport News) is just 12 votes ahead of Democratic challenger Shelly Simonds, with provisional ballots still being counted through Monday.
President Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said Wednesday that she pressed her polling place on voting machine security when she voted in Virginia this week. Kirstjen Nielsen, the nominee for Homeland Security secretary, made the comments during her confirmation hearing Wednesday morning when asked about the department’s role in protecting election infrastructure from cyberattacks. “When I went to vote this week in the Virginia election, I was quite concerned with the scanning machine and started asking a variety of questions on what the security was on the scanning machine for the ballot. I think we all have to be very aware and work with the state and locals,” Nielsen said.
Virginians go to the polls today to vote on a number of statewide and legislative races. But voters in one prominent swing county in Virginia have received robocalls falsely telling them their polling places have changed. Harry Wiggins, chair of the Prince Williams County Democratic Committee, told The Intercept that voters started alerting him about these calls last Friday. “Some of those people were actually called multiple times,” Wiggins said. “They’re saying, ‘Your regular polling places has changed, you need to vote at a different polling place.’” As of Tuesday, Wiggins said 32 voters have alerted him that they had received these robocalls. Robin Williams, chair of the Prince Williams County Elections Board, confirmed to The Intercept that they have forwarded these complaints to the state — which has the power to investigate and prosecute election shenanigans. He also said that the county was not responsible for these calls. “If we change a precinct, we can’t do it 60 days before an election,” he said. He pointed out that every voter is notified by mail if their polling station is changed. “We spend a fair amount of money in order to move one of these precincts, a lot of notice. … You will never get a phone call from us or anything like that. Our communication to you is by mail.”
A Twitter account misleading Democratic voters in Virginia by telling them they could cast their ballot by text message was active for almost three hours on Tuesday morning before Twitter suspended the account. The account, “MAGA Mike King,” was suspended after it tweeted more than a dozen times a graphic purportedly instructing Virginians on how to vote by text and including the logos of the Democratic Party and its gubernatorial candidate, Ralph Northam. The account doesn’t appear to have had much success spreading its message, with less than a handful of interactions on each of the offending tweets, but to some observers that’s almost beside the point. Their concern is that the account remained active for almost three hours out of the 13 hours that polls are open in Virginia, despite the fact that Twitter knows these sorts of efforts are a potential problem on its platform, and has claimed success in fighting back against them.