Sometimes it's a good idea to get a full explanation before these things become fodder in a contentious partisan legal election contest. So that's what we've tried to do. Happily, the General Registrar of Bedford County, VA was more than willing to help.
Last week, and the week before, The BRAD BLOG devoted quite a bit of coverage to the incredibly close Attorney General's race in Virginia. As of last week, the Democratic candidate Mark Herring was certified by the state's local voting jurisdictions (counties and cities), as the "winner" over Republican Mark Obenshain by just 164 votes out of more than 2.2 million cast.
The contest is, for now, in the hands of the State Board of Elections which will issue its own official official certification of results on November 25th, after which the candidate declared the "loser" is almost certain to ask for a "recount" and potentially file an election contest thereafter, depending on the outcome. (See the last section of this article for an explanation as to why we put quotes around the word "recount", especially in Virginia.)
During the week-long roller coaster canvass by jurisdictions across Virginia following the November 5th election, there were a number of minor adjustments to local tallies as county and city election officials checked and double-checked results printed by touch-screen and paper ballot optical-scan tabulation computers from Election Night and then adjudicated provisional ballots for tally and inclusion in the final results. While most of the adjustments made during the week following the election were relatively small, each was of great significance in a race this tight.
But there were three rather large changes to the results during the post-election canvass process --- two were in the Democratic strongholds of Fairfax County and the city of Richmond, and one was in heavily Republican Bedford County. All of the large tabulation adjustments were said to have been caused by various combinations of computer tabulator and human error.
Two of them, the ones which resulted in about 1,300 votes beginning picked up by the Democrat over his Republican rival in both Fairfax and Richmond, were covered and explained in the media in some detail. (See our coverage here of the discovery of the thousands of "missing" Fairfax votes and the eventual explanation the next day. The Richmond additions are described here.) The adjustments made during the canvass by heavily-Republican Bedford County, however, which resulted in a net pick-up of about 500 votes for Obenshain, received considerably less public explanation.
Given that all of these matters may be revisited once again in a "recount" --- and the inevitable legal challenges to go with it --- we thought it might be good to get the explanation for Obenshain's big vote pickup in Bedford County on the written record. Bedford's General Registrar Barbara Gunter was kind enough to reply to our queries last week on that point, offering her explanation for the known details of the computer and/or human errors that led to more than 700 votes in the AG's race being initially misreported on Election Night in Bedford County...