Working as it should

Published 9:59 pm Friday, December 20, 2013

In the end, the difference between a Mark Herring election and a Mark Obenshain election was just .04 percent of the vote.

When the official recount for the election of Virginia’s attorney general was complete, Herring, a Democrat, had beaten his Republican counterpart by 907 votes out of a total of 2,209,283 votes cast for the office. Herring’s margin was razor-thin, but it was about five and a half times larger than it had appeared in the days following the November election.

Under Virginia law, Obenshain, who trailed by just 165 votes following the first count, was allowed to request the recount because the margin was less than 1 percent. Because it was less than .5 percent, taxpayers paid the bill for the special court that conducted the recount.

Email newsletter signup

Both Herring and Obenshain gained votes the second time they were counted, with officials finding another 1,268 for the former and another 526 for the latter. The previously uncounted votes accounted for .08 percent of the votes cast, an amount that would have been negligible in most elections, but one that could have caused this election to swing either way.

With the numbers turning inexorably and unbeatably against him, Obesnhain conceded the election hours before the court finished its count on Thursday. Nonetheless, the recount was more than an exercise in futility. Things could easily have gone a different direction, and voters had a right to know that the ballots they had cast were duly and properly counted.

This is the way elections are supposed to work. Both candidates can walk away confident in the results, and voters can be confident in the process.