Warner: ‘100 percent certain’ winner in Senate squeaker

CLOSE DOESN’T COUNT: Lawyers for Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, left, are “100 percent certain” that he will prevail over GOP opponent Ed Gillespie, right.

By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau

RICHMOND, Va. — Declaring victory before a statewide canvass got under way, Democratic Sen. Mark Warner is “100 percent certain” to be sworn in for a second term, his election attorney said Wednesday.

Warner defeated Republican Ed Gillespie by some 12,000 votes out of 2 million cast Tuesday.

“The margin is close, but not small,” said attorney Marc Elias. “There is nothing that will threaten Senator Warner’s lead.”

The Virginia Public Access Project, however, raised questions about the final result.

Noting disparities between tallies provided by the State Board of Elections and the Associated Press, VPAP analysts identified “a major discrepancy” in the vote returns for Rockingham County, among the state’s most solid Republican localities.

AP reported much higher totals for both candidates in Rockingham — more than 5,000 more votes for Gillespie and just under 2,000 more votes for Warner.

In addition to uncounted provisional ballots, the state totals don’t include seven precincts:

  • Albemarle – University Hall
  • Isle of Wight – Smithfield
  • Radford – Central
  • Rockingham – Port Republic
  • Dinwiddie – Absentee
  • Roanoke – Absentee
  • Winchester – Absentee

The number of outstanding provisional ballots is unknown. With Virginia’s new photo-ID requirement for voting, the number of provisional ballots issued to unverified voters could be substantially larger than in previous years.

Elias said provisional ballots tend to favor Democratic candidates.

Watchdog reported Tuesday that voters in the Hampton Roads region experienced problems with some voting machines flipping their choices from Republican to Democratic candidates.

Elias acknowledged that technical problems crop up in every election using electronic voting machines. But, he added, “I see no grounds for a contest” of the election. “Virginia has a long history of clean elections.”

To ensure Warner’s interests are represented during the statewide canvass this week, said Elias, who chairs the Perkins Coie political law practice in Washington, D.C., teams will be deployed in each county. Elias represented Mark Herring during the Democrat’s successful recount victory over Republican Mark Obenshain in an even closer race for Virginia attorney general last year.

“We have people in all counties and lawyers where they’re needed” Elias said.

The Gillespie campaign did not respond to Watchdog’s requests for comment.

Kenric Ward is a national correspondent for Watchdog.org and chief of its Virginia Bureau. Contact him at kenric@watchdogvirginia.org or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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