Attorneys for Republican Mark Obenshain, who Democrat Mark Herring edged by 165 votes in the closest statewide race in Virginia history, are raising “ballot security issues” in Fairfax County, the commonwealth’s largest county.
Citing reports of boxes of voted and unused ballots stored in a warehouse after the Nov. 5 election, Obenshain attorney William Hurd accused county officials of presenting conflicting timelines.
One account said the ballots were delivered to the county clerk’s office “by staff” on Nov. 18, the day they were discovered. Yet the clerk’s certification states that the ballots were received on Nov. 20.
“This two-day gap is especially troubling since it involves not only ballots that were presumably cast legitimately on Election Day, but also unused ballots that could, in the wrong hands, provide a means for tampering,” Hurd said.
"Now we've got to figure out what did happen and whether these were the same ballots that were cast on Election Day," he said.
"The two precincts under scrutiny -- Virginia Run and Tysons -- reported a total of 1,072 votes for Obenshain and 1,071 for Herring, according to the State Board of Elections.
Brian Schoeneman, secretary for the Fairfax Election Board, told Watchdog that “all of these ballots were counted on Election Day -- there was never a question of that.
“The question the Obenshain campaign is raising is whether those ballots were somehow tampered with because they weren't immediately taken to the Courthouse by the statutory deadline. We are confident that those ballots were not tampered with and can be accounted for,” Schoeneman said.
Herring attorney Marc Elias, according to the Washingto Post, called it “telling” that Obenshain’s team has complained about ballot security in Fairfax and has pushed for immediate access to poll books.
Those issues would not come into play in the recount but could form the basis for an eventual contest in the General Assembly, the Post reported.
Despite the lag time and discrepancies in ballot delivery – as well as the unknown number of unmarked ballots -- Schoeneman said, “the ballots were still secure.”
“Thanks to our very strict chain of custody procedures for voted and unvoted ballots, all of the ballots (both voted and unvoted) were in sealed boxes, within a locked and sealed cart, transported by Office of Elections staff to Fairfax County's secure warehouse, where they were deposited within a gated, locked section of that warehouse that is monitored by video cameras 24 hours a day,” Schoeneman told Watchdog.