The "recount" is not going well so far for Virginia state Senator Mark Obenshain (R). What had been the closest statewide race in history, while still close, is beginning to open up for state Senator Mark Herring (D), who had been previously certified by the State Board of Elections as the "winner" of the November 5th state Attorney General's race.
After two days of what suffices for a "recount" in the Old Dominion's election to replace outgoing Republican AG Ken Cuccinelli, Herring's state-certified 165 vote lead prior to the "recount" expanded to more than 800 votes on Tuesday, out of more than 2.2 million cast. According to the Democrat's campaign, more than 70% of the votes have now been re-tallied across the commonwealth as of Tuesday night. The three-days of re-tallying will end Wednesday, with a three-judge panel in Richmond making the final determinations on any challenged ballots by Friday.
Herring may have hired MN Sen. Al Franken's election recount attorney to represent him in VA, but the three-day affair there, so far, is nothing like the epic six-month-plus post-election hand-count in the 2008 U.S. Senate race between Franken and his Republican opponent Sen. Norm Coleman.
There, every single paper ballot was examined publicly, by hand. The time it took was, in no small part, due to the transparent thoroughness of the counting, but perhaps much more to Coleman's attempts to challenge everything he possibly could, arguably as a way to forestall what would become a very short-lived filibuster-proof Democratic super-majority in the U.S. Senate once Franken was finally seated in July of 2009.
In Virginia, as we've described several times in detail, the "recount" process is barely a count at all, given that most votes in the state are still cast on 100% unverifiable (and unrecountable) Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting systems. The rest of the votes are cast on paper ballots, but those are tallied by often-inaccurate, easily-gamed optical-scan computer tabulators, either correctly or incorrectly --- without a hand-count, there's no way to know. By Virginia's "recount" statute, almost all of those paper ballots are simply being run through the same optical-scanners again, rather than examined by human beings. The exception is ballots that register no vote for either candidate during the re-scanning. Those are then set aside and examined by hand during the "recount".
But, in a race as close as this one, there are more than enough paper ballots to flip the results from one candidate to the other during such a post-election tally.
In this case, however --- at least as of Tuesday night --- it's not looking good for Obenshain, as Herring is racking up more newly tallied votes than the Republican in almost every locality where there have been any changes to the totals at all...