VIRGINIA BEACH (AP) A three-judge panel overseeing a recount in a close Virginia Beach state House race upheld the Republican candidate’s victory on Dec. 3, a decision that also reaffirms the GOP’s takeover of the chamber.
The certified results from the Nov. 2 election showed Republicans leading in 52 districts and the Democrats leading in 48.
The recount in the 85th District race resulted in Democratic incumbent Alex Askew gaining 12 votes, but he still trailed Republican challenger Karen Greenhalgh by 115 votes. There was one contested ballot. The panel found that the intent of the voter was unclear, so that ballot was not counted for either candidate.
After Democrats requested recounts in two races with razor-thin margins, that left open the remote possibility of a 50-50 split.
Though the second recount is still expected to proceed next week, Democrats no longer have a shot at undoing the GOP’s majority after the judges certified that Republican Karen Greenhalgh had defeated Del. Alex Askew in the 85th House District.
Askew and fellow Democratic Del. Martha Mugler of the 91st District requested recounts after certified results from the Nov. 2 election showed their GOP challengers leading by razor-thin margins. The recount in the 91st District, which covers the cities of Hampton and Poquoson, and York County, is expected to take place on Dec. 7 and Dec. 8.
Republicans — who won 52 districts, according to the certified results — have said they are confident their candidates’ leads will hold.
Throughout the day Dec. 2 and into Dec. 3, people packed into a room in the second floor of an elections building in Virginia Beach as the ballots from the 85th District were fed into the two scanning machines. Groups of people sat at tables and scrutinized any ballots that were determined by the machines to have write-in candidates, were not clearly marked or had some other issue.
By day’s end on Dec. 2, the group had worked through approximately 20,000 ballots cast in person on Election Day, and only one ballot had been designated for a challenge.
Officials on Dec. 3 were still conducting a recount all of the city’s early-voting and mail-in ballots — about 54,000 — to ensure that they had accounted for all of the approximately 8,000 such ballots that were meant for the 85th District.
Jeffrey Marks, the GOP chair of the city’s electoral board, said on Dec. 2 that both sides will present challenge ballots to the panel, and the judges will decide how each challenge ballot should be counted.
If the recounts confirm the Republicans’ victories in both the 85th and 91st Districts, it will mark a GOP sweep in last month’s election, when its candidates claimed the statewide offices of governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. Those wins were a dramatic turnaround in a state where the GOP had not won a statewide race since 2009.
Virginia’s top elections official, Chris Piper, has said the recounts are unlikely to change the outcomes of the races because of the size of the margins. Both Askew and Mugler would have had to win for the House to be tied 50-50, forcing Democrats and Republicans to hash out a power-sharing agreement.
Before her recount, Mugler trailed Republican A.C. Cordoza by 94 votes out of 27,388 counted. The Associated Press hasn’t called either race.
Both Mugler and Askew are incumbent freshmen who were first elected in 2019, when Democrats flipped both the House and Senate.
Recounts in Virginia are not automatic and must be requested. Because the margins in the Askew-Greenhalgh and Mugler-Cordoza races were under 0.5%, the costs will be covered by the state.
-BEN FINLEY, Associated Press