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Gillespie: 'We will be watching the results closely'

Published: Nov. 5, 2014 at 8:15 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2014 at 8:28 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Republican Ed Gillespie says he and his team will be watching the official vote count closely in his nail-biter race against incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Warner.

Gillespie trails by 16,007 votes, or 0.73 percent, with all but three of the 2557 precincts reporting, according to the latest tally by the State Board of Elections. The Virginia Public Access Project notes the State Board of Elections total is missing votes from precincts in Albemarle, Isle of Wight, Radford and Rockingham. The group also says absentee ballots in Dinwiddie, Roanoke and Winchester are not yet part of the State Board's total.

“It's a testament to our volunteers and their incredible efforts that we were outspent two-to-one and yet the most recent unofficial tally has us separated by less than a percentage point out of more than two million votes cast. Now we owe it to the voters of Virginia to respect the canvassing process that is underway to get an official result," Gillespie said in a statement. "We will be watching the results closely so that we can ensure Virginians have confidence in the accuracy of the results. It was an honor to run, and I will respect the decision reached by Virginia's voters.”

Warner declared victory late Tuesday and his camp believes the official tally will only further solidify their lead. His election attorney told reporters he has never heard of a lead this large changing hands as a result of a canvass of votes.

However, the tallying is far from over.

Localities across the state are canvassing, or rechecking, all of the ballot totals. This means a lot of scruitinizing numbers, and counting provisional ballots.

Richmond city election officials poured over the figures, Wednesday, the day after election night.

"There are so many checks and balances that go into this, it's amazing," said Richmond City Electoral Board Vice Chair Starlet Stevens.

Provisional ballots are also counted. There are 3,622 statewide in this election that may be factored in, if they qualify. Both the Warner and Gillespie camps have volunteers rechecking the work of the local and state voting officers.

Craig Bieber is a volunteer with the Warner campaign. Bieber believes he's found more than 600 ballots that weren't counted in Warner's favor, in one of Richmond's precincts.

"The total for Warner in that precinct was actually 733 votes instead of 73 votes," said Bieber, referring to a precinct in the Museum District.

While that error isn't confirmed, tabulation errors can easily happen have long hours at the polls.

All local electoral boards have until noon Friday to finalize the results. The State Board of Elections then rechecks all of the results, and ultimately certifies the election. That is set to happen on November 25th. If the final tally still shows less than one percent separating the two candidates, Gillespie will have 10 days to request a recount.

However, that can be expensive. The candidate must pay for all of the man hours involved, if the difference isn't less than half a percent. Otherwise, the government pays for the recount.

"For a statewide recount, it can be pretty pricey," said Edgardo Cortes, the Virginia Commissioner of Elections.

There's no telling if Gillespie will petition for a recount. However, his team says the race isn't over yet. Warner supporters say it would be nearly impossible for Gillespie to pull the 16,000 votes needed to take the seat.

Regardless, VPAP believes it has identified a major discrepancy in the results for Rockingham County, which is one of the most solid Republican localities. A volunteer for the Warner campaign claims the City of Richmond undercounted 660 votes for the incumbent.

Concerns Virginia's new voter identification law would lead to an influx of provisional ballots appear to be unfounded. While voters without a photo ID were asked to fill out a provisional ballot, the State Board reports only 3,622 provisional ballots were cast. Of those, only 773 were cast by voters who did not have an ID, although Amherst, Brunswick, Chesterfield and Rockingham counties are not included in those totals.

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