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Margins make outcomes unlikely to shift in two tight House races, Virginia elections commissioner says
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Margins make outcomes unlikely to shift in two tight House races, Virginia elections commissioner says

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Recounts are unlikely to change the outcomes of two tight Virginia contests for the House of Delegates because of the size of the margins, the commissioner of the state Department of Elections told a Richmond civic group on Wednesday.

To change 94 votes — Republican A.C. Cordoza’s lead over Del. Martha Mugler, D-Hampton — “when you’ve got about 27,000 cast in that election is going to be really hard to do because we’re so good at our jobs,” Chris Piper said, referring to the dedication of local and state elections officials.

Piper addressed the group Richmond First just over a week after Republicans swept elections for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general and apparently took control of the House of Delegates.

Local electoral boards in Hampton Roads on Tuesday certified Cordoza’s victory over Mugler by 0.33% in House District 91 and Republican Karen Greenhalgh’s win over Del. Alex Askew, D-Virginia Beach, by 127 votes, or 0.44%, in District 85. Once state electoral officials sign off on the totals on Monday, both Democrats are entitled to seek recounts at state expense because the margins are within half a percentage point.

If the GOP wins hold up, Republicans will take control of the House of Delegates with 52 seats to the Democrats’ 48.

Piper, speaking to the civic group at Willow Oaks Country Club, said elections officials felt the national scrutiny on election night. While Piper did not mention former President Donald Trump, the election came as Trump and some other Republicans sought to raise doubts about the integrity of Virginia’s electoral processes.

“We knew that we had to pull off a perfect election in order to help reinvigorate Americans’ faith in the election process,” Piper said.

“We had as close to a flawless a day as you could have when you administer an election,” Piper added, referring to more than 15,000 people working in concert — state and local electoral officials, officers of election working in polling places and election observers.

A few minor problems surfaced, Piper said. At one point, a machine in Henrico County jammed because a ballot was wet. It was run through a machine after it dried.

The big turnout — 3.3 million voters, compared with 2.6 million four years ago — meant nine localities around the state ran low on ballots or ran out. Local electoral officials activated backup plans, in some cases transferring extra blank ballots from one precinct to another.

“Those were the problems we had on election night. That’s it,” Piper said. “That’s a pretty great day.”

Debunking myths

Piper also sought to debunk misinformation, saying it would not be possible to rig a Virginia election.

For example, he noted that all Virginians cast ballots on paper, which enables voters to double check their choices and leaves a crucial backup. Voters insert the ballots into machines because “humans stink at counting” and machines perform that task better, Piper said.

He added that certification rules and state law do not allow the machines to be connected to the internet.

“You cannot hack a machine that you can’t have access to,” he said.

As for myths about mail-in ballots, a host of unaccounted-for ballots could not suddenly materialize and get processed in the machines, Piper said. Each ballot must be tied to a voter. Election officers from both parties preside over meetings in which properly received and marked mail-in ballots are run through machines.

On Monday at 1 p.m., the State Board of Elections will meet to certify the election results from Virginia’s 133 cities and counties.

“Then I can go to bed,” Piper said.

acain@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6645

Twitter: @AndrewCainRTD

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