Virginia certifies election results, but two recounts looming

RICHMOND, Virginia. –Virginia officials certified the results of the Nov. 2 election on Monday, giving Republicans a two-seat majority in the House of Delegates. But two races where Republicans lead by razor thin margins are eligible for a recount, leaving open a distant possibility of a 50-50 split in the chamber.

Certified results show Republicans have a 52-48 majority over Democrats.

[Online election results from the Virginia Department of Elections]

The Associated Press has not called the two races that are in the margin for the recount: District 91, where Republican AC Cordoza leads Democrat Martha Mugler by 94 votes out of 27,388 votes counted; and District 85, where Republican Karen Greenhalgh leads Democratic MP Alex Askew by 127 votes out of 28,413 votes counted. The margin in both races is less than 0.5%, allowing losing candidates to apply for a state-funded recount.

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Mugler and Askew have yet to say whether they intend to call for a recount. Spokesmen for the candidates did not immediately respond to text and voice messages left by The Associated Press on Monday.

Under state law, after the state certifies the results, losing candidates have 10 days to file petitions in court to request a recount. Because the courts will be closed for Thanksgiving on November 25 and 26, the deadline is November 29. Kate Sarna, spokesperson for the House Democratic Caucus, declined to comment.

Election Department Commissioner Chris Piper told a Richmond civic group last week that recounts are unlikely to change race results due to the size of the margins.

“We had a safe, secure and incredibly smooth election,” Piper told the electoral council just before he voted 5-0 to certify the election results.

If the Republicans keep Districts 85 and 91, they will control the House, 52-48, and conduct an electoral sweep in which they also reclaimed the posts of governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. The state Senate has a slim 21-19 Democratic majority, with elections slated for 2023.

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Democrats conceded control of the House to Republicans days after the election, but tempered that concession after it became clear that the 85th and 91st Districts appeared to be heading for a recount.

Republicans have repeatedly stated that they are convinced the recount will not change the results of either race and that they will control the House when the General Assembly meets again in January.

Recounts in Virginia are not automatic. Under state law, a candidate cannot request a recount until the results are officially certified by the state Electoral Council.

If Mugler and Askew file motions, a three-judge “recount court” would oversee the recounts. It’s unclear how long the process would take, but in 2017, when partisan control of the House reduced to a central Hampton Roads seat, the count didn’t take place until late December.

The Republican victories are seen in part as a backlash against a series of progressive reforms the former Democratic majority pushed through over the past two years, making Virginia an outlier in the South. These included repealing the death penalty, easing restrictions on abortion, and legalizing marijuana.

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Democrats held a 55-45 majority in the House ahead of the election.

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