VA Attorney General recount set for Dec. 16

Published: Dec. 4, 2013 at 6:53 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 14, 2013 at 6:53 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Almost a month after Election Day, a judge has now set a recount date for the Virginia Attorney General race. The process will begin December 16 in Fairfax County and December 17 across Virginia.

In a preliminary recount hearing Wednesday, Richmond Circuit Court Judge Beverly W. Snukals granted Fairfax County an early start. After consulting with Donald Palmer, Secretary of the State Board of Elections, Snukals provided Fairfax the extra day because of the county's size and the complexities of its voting systems.

Attorneys for Republican candidate Mark Obenshain first requested the recount to begin closer to Christmas, on December 18, but Judge Snukals ruled an earlier start would prevent the prolonged race from entering into Christmas week.

"We will hear challenges to ballots on December 19," Snukals said to attorneys for both sides. "That gives us time to hear arguments before the week is over."

The recount is expected to last between two and three days, concluding by December 20.

The State Board of Elections gave Democrat Mark Herring a 165-vote edge over Obenshain in November. Virginians cast 2.2 million ballots in the Attorney General's race.

Although the recount dates are now set, critical rules for the proceedings are still in dispute. It remains unclear if election observers will be allowed to point out problems to recount officials while ballots are being reviewed.

Attorneys for Sen. Obenshain are also asking to unseal secured poll books, in order to detect further voting irregularities. Lawyers for Sen. Herring oppose the idea, citing security concerns if the sealed documents are opened.

"Right now, the poll books are in a vault, inaccessible to the public," said Herring attorney Kevin J. Hamilton during Wednesday's hearing. "Poll books are also not relevant in a recount, only votes count."

The two sides also argued whether phones or cameras could be allowed into rooms while votes are being recounted. Judge Snukals will rule on the unresolved recount guidelines Monday, December 9.

Both Herring and Obenshain have announced transition teams, just over a month before Governor-Elect Terry McAuliffe is inaugurated January 11.

Copyright 2013 AP/WWBT NBC12.  All rights reserved.