Bedford votes key in AG election

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By John Barnhart

    A question mark still hangs over the race for Attorney General nearly a week after the election. At present, Mark Herring leads Mark Obenshain by a margin of 117 votes — 1,103,610 to 1,103,493.  That will probably result in a recount.
    Obenshain led by a narrow margin, in unofficial results posted to the Virginia State Board of elections website shortly after the polls closed. That changed after additional votes turned up during canvassing, which each registrar’s office does following the election. Bedford County was one of those localities where additional votes turned up; most of those votes went to Obenshain.
    In one case, the Liberty High School precinct was unable to post votes from one voting machine  because it would not print out a tape of its vote total. Gunter already knew about that and a technician retrieved the 135 votes from that machine.
    Another discrepancy arose in the St. Paul Baptist Church precinct. After canvassing was complete, Gunter noticed that there was a significant difference — 597 votes — between the official post-canvassing count and what was posted to the unofficial results website on election night. That precinct had two machines on Nov. 5 and Gunter discovered that what had been posted on the state website was an exact match to the tape from one machine, rather than the official consolidation report tape, which is a summary of totals from all machines used in the precinct.
    Gunter said mistakes like that can be easy to make because poll workers have put in a 14-hour day by the time the unofficial results are reported.
    “That’s another reason for the canvass,” she said. She also noted that is why results remain unofficial until all localities have completed their canvass.
    The canvass begins on the day after the election and finishes on Friday. Gunter said its purpose is to provide additional, well-rested, eyes that make sure that everything is done correctly and all votes are counted. During the process, each precinct’s consolidation report tape is compared with the tapes from each of the machines used at the precinct to make sure the totals match.
    Gunter emphasized that no votes were lost — that’s the purpose of the canvass.
    Obenshain got the majority of those votes. As a result of the canvass, Obenshain’s total for St Paul is 907 votes and Herring’s total is 247. The totals for Liberty High School now stand at 457 for Obenshain and 167 for Herring.
    Overall, Obenshain carried Bedford County by the largest margin of anyone on the Republican ticket. Obenshain received 75 percent of the vote here. Herring drew only 25 percent of the Bedford County votes cast. Obenshain buried Herring at the Goode Rescue Squad with 82 percent of the vote. Herring did his best at the Bedford Central Library with 34 percent of the vote.
The governor and lieutenant governor races
    In the election of a new governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe won a narrow victory over Republican Ken Cuccinelli Tuesday night to become Virginia’s next governor. 
    Although polls a month ago showed McAuliffe with a substantial lead over Cuccinelli, that lead evaporated as Election Day approached. In the end, McAuliffe received 48 percent of the vote to Cuccinelli’s 45 percent. Robert Sarvis, who ran as a Libertarian, came in a distant third with 7 percent of the vote.
    Ralph Northam won the lieutenant governor’s contest by a more substantial margin. He defeated E. W. Jackson by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.
    Bedford County, a heavily Republican area, went strongly for the Republican ticket. Cuccinelli received 69 percent to McAuliffe’s 21 percent. Sarvis matched his statewide performance, garnering 7 percent of the vote. Cuccinelli drew his highest level of Bedford County support at the Goode Volunteer Rescue Squad where he received 78 percent of the votes cast there.  McAuliffe did his best at the Bedford Central Library, where 33 percent of the votes cast there went to him. Sarvis drew his greatest level of support at the Thaxton Community Center and Chamblissburg Baptist Church, where he received 11 percent of the vote.
    Jackson also did better here, drawing 68 percent of the vote to Northam’s 29 percent. Like Cuccinelli, Jackson did his local best at the Goode Volunteer Rescue Squad, where 76 percent of the votes cast there went to him. Like McAuliffe, Northam did his best at the Bedford Central Library, where he received 42 percent of the vote.