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Recounts and absentee and provisional, OH MY! Separating election results fact from fiction

Actually, it's right here

The election ended two days ago but rumors and confusion still swirl regarding the outcome. Considering that two of our local races had exceptionally close results, the House District 28 race and the Garrisonville Supervisor race, people have questions about what will happen next. BTW has seen a lot of misinformation floating around out there like the recount already happened (it hasn't), that absentee ballots weren't counted (they were) and fear from constituents that their votes won't be counted (to be honest, they might not.) When this level of confusion breaks out, BTW steps in to clear the haze and let the sun shine in. Let's break things down:

"My candidate lost by only a few votes, has there been/will there be a recount?"

The Free Lance Star ran a short story online regarding the Garrisonville race that addressed this issue. Basically, any candidate who loses has the right to ask for a recount in Virginia. Laura Sellers in Garrisonville has already stated she will ask for one and Josh Cole in the HD 28 race will likely ask for one, too. A recount has not occurred yet in either race because no winner has been officially declared. Why? Provisional ballots still need to be counted.

Provisional ballot are ballots that are cast "provisionally" at the polling places on election day. As a former election chief, I had folks cast their ballot in this way for a few reasons, mainly when they did not have an ID but in other situations as well. Sometimes people are absolutely adamant that they are registered when they are not on the list, sometimes they are equally adamant that they are at the correct polling place when election records indicate they are not. In these situations, poll workers have these votes cast provisionally with accompanying paperwork explaining the situation and placed in a sealed envelope. Then, on the Monday after the election, the Stafford County Electoral Board will convene to decide whether the votes are valid. Once those provisional ballots are counted, a winner can be officially declared and the loser can then request a recount.

"I voted provisionally on Tuesday, will my vote be counted?"

If this is the case then you should have received instructions at the time as to how to proceed. If you voted this way because you forgot your ID, then you have until Monday to go to the Registrar's office to provide it. When you do so, your vote can be counted assuming your were in the right polling place when you voted. If you voted this way because you were in the wrong polling place or weren't registered, your vote will not be counted. The voting laws we have in place are to prevent people from voting multiple times. The Electoral Board, the body who reviews these votes, will not make exceptions in these cases. If you did vote this way and need more information, contact the Registrar's office at 540-658-4000 on Monday.

"I heard that a large number of absentee ballots weren't counted, was mine counted?"

Laura Sellers tweeted today that 1111 absentee ballots were not opened "due to a technicality." As a former poll worker, that seemed like utter nonsense to me so I went to the source to get answers: Greg Riddlemoser, the Stafford County Registrar who runs all the county elections. According to him, this is "a blatant fabrication." Every year, voters request absentee ballots be sent to them in the mail but for whatever reason, they don't mail them back. They could have forgotten to mail them in or they could have changed their mind and voted in person after all. According to Riddlemoser, this 1111 number of absentee ballots refers to the number of ballots that were sent and not returned to the Registrar's office. There is no nefarious plan to hide these ballots, as Ms. Sellers implies. If you would like to check on the status of your absentee ballot, check the state elections page HERE.

Of course, it is possible that you sent in an absentee ballot and it was not counted. The main reason for this is that the Registrar's office did not get in time. Which leads us to....

"I heard 55 absentee ballots that weren't counted were received at the Registrar's office on Wednesday morning but were in the Government Center on Election day. Shouldn't these votes be counted?"

This is more misinformation being spread by Ms. Sellers, this time via her Facebook page. Again, according to County Registrar Riddlemoser, these ballots were indeed delivered to his office on Wednesday a postal service employee. They were not languishing in the bowels of the Government Center, being ignored by the Registrar's employees. I am actually pretty offended by this tactic because these people work exceptionally hard to make sure that the elections are run accurately and fairly. When Riddlemoser took over as Registrar in 2011, he CLEANED HOUSE. He took the antiquated, inefficient and out-dated office left to him by his predecessor and created one of the best, most respected election offices in the state. Ms. Sellers' attempts to mislead the public by scaring them into thinking their Registar's office is incompetent is reprehensible. There is no conspiracy to unseat her, no corruption or ineptitude. Ms. Sellers simply got fewer votes than her challenger.

Officially, the winners will be announced on Monday, after the provisional ballots are tallied. If and when there are recounts requested, BTW will be there to cover the proceedings.