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Election results certified despite 147 votes cast in wrong districts

RICHMOND, Va. – On Monday, the Virginia State Board of Elections, meeting at the Patrick Henry building downtown, voted unanimously to certify the election results for Stafford and Fredericksburg districts where an investigation showed that 147 voters cast ballots in the wrong precinct.

The spotlight has been on Stafford County as the Virginia House of Delegates barely remains under Republican control and some irregularities have led to concern over the election outcome.

Republican Bob Thomas leads Democratic candidate Joshua Cole by 82 votes in District 28.

Based upon the analysis conducted by the Department of Elections (ELECT) staff, it is believed that at least 384 voters are improperly assigned and at least 147 voters in Districts 28 and 88 voted in the incorrect House of Delegates election in the 2017 General Election.

Voter address information contained in the Virginia Election and Registration Information System (VERIS) was validated through a geospatial database used by state agencies. ELECT staff utilized those address points and legislative district maps to identify voters that appear to be incorrectly assigned to HOD districts where they do not reside.

After identifying potentially impacted voters, ELECT utilized information about persons voting in the election submitted by localities to determine how many of the affected voters cast a ballot in the Nov. 7 election.

The detailed summary of incorrect district assignments can be read here. 

This is not the first problem to arise from District 28. There were 55 absentee ballots which arrived past the deadline in the contested D-28 race. The Stafford County Electoral Board ruled not to accept those ballots.

Stafford Registrar Greg Riddlemoser said that the Richmond Distro Center USPS contacted them at 3:30 p.m. Election Day, and had 10 ballots. There were no other ballots received throughout the day other than one, hand-delivered ballot.

Riddlemoser said in the emails that “maybe 55 would have swung one or both” of the races; there was also a Board of Supervisors race with a close outcome.

The Stafford County Garrisonville District supervisor race was won by an extremely close margin. Incumbent Laura Sellers, a Democrat, lost to Mark Dudenhefer (Republican) by 12 votes.

Both races are eligible for a recount.

The Commonwealth experienced an unprecedented sweep of House Democrats seat, with at least 15 seats won in a wave election.

In addition to HD-28, HD-40 and HD-94 also remain in recount territory. If the recounts do not change any results, the Republicans will have control of the chamber, 51 to 49.

The board emphasized Monday that they could not resolve the irregularities seen in the election, but that a court or the General Assembly could.

The Virginia House Democratic Caucus today issued the following statement after the results were certified.

“The State Board acknowledged today what we have long known: the election results in House District 28 are marred by irregularities. Significantly, the Board formally adopted the Department of Elections’ report concluding that at least 147 voters cast ballots in the wrong race, nearly twice the current 82-vote margin between Democratic nominee Joshua Cole and Republican nominee Bob Thomas. However, we disagree with the Board’s decision to certify in spite of these irregularities, and we will continue to assess our options to remedy this wrong. We will release a statement as to our next step as soon as one is determined.”

Virginia House of Delegates Speaker-designee Kirk Cox also released the following statement Monday:

“We are pleased the State Board of Elections finally fulfilled its statutory duty and unanimously certified the election results in House Districts 28 and 88, but are disappointed it took over a week, a strong signal from a federal judge, and the threat of a state suit to get them to act. With this step, we can now proceed to handling any other questions through the proper venues outlined in state law, as members of State Board said multiple times today. Dragging this process out has only prolonged the important work that remains to be done by both sides in preparation for the 2018 General Assembly Session. We stand ready to govern and pass legislation that will help fight the opioid epidemic, improve our schools, and help the middle class get ahead.”