A federal judge in Alexandria declined Friday to force a count of 55 absentee ballots that could help determine control of the Virginia House of Delegates. In the race to fill the seat held by retiring Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford), Republican Robert Thomas is ahead of Joshua Cole by 82 votes. Cole’s campaign filed suit arguing that 55 absentee ballots that arrived in Stafford County the day after the Nov. 7 election were late because of postal-office problems and should be counted. Judge Claude M. Hilton disagreed. “These ballots were late,” he said. Everyone, Hilton added, wonders sometimes “what’s wrong with the mail.” But he saw no evidence of “improprieties” here.
Cole’s campaign pointed to an email sent to state officials the day after the election by Greg Riddlemoser, general registrar of Stafford County, saying that “there is no possible way in my military mind that these ballots should not have been available to us on Election Day before close-of-polls.”
Amanda Callais, an attorney for the Cole campaign, said in court Friday that the registrar’s email indicates that “these ballots would have arrived but for the mistake of a government official.”