Virginia election 2013: Fairfax County official defends handling of AG ballots

(WJLA) – On the one hand, Fairfax County Electoral Board Secretary Brian Schoeneman (R) completely understands why Mark Obenshain’s legal team has spent the past several days raising questions about how ballots were processed and secured during and after Virginia’s attorney general election.

On the other hand, he bristles about such questions regarding the election, in which Mark Herring (D) was declared the winner by 165 votes over his Republican rival, prompting a recount that will be completed next week.

“I mean, here’s the bottom line: There was never any situation where any of the ballots were outside of our exclusive jurisdiction and control,” Schoeneman says. “When they were not physically in the presence of one of our staff, they were locked in our secure warehouse, and the issue, as far as I can tell -- which is I think if a fair one -- is whether or not there was any opportunity for anybody to tamper with those ballots, and there wasn’t."

Obenshain attorney Bill Hurd has requested detailed accounting from the Fairfax board, telling it the fact some ballots were handed over to the clerk Nov. 18 and others on Nov. 20 “is especially troubling since it involves not only ballots that were presumably cast legitimately on Election Day, but also unused ballots that could, in the wrong hands, provide a means for tampering.”

That’s nonsense, according to Schoeneman.

“. . .The ballots were locked in our office for two days in our ballot storage area before they were taken over to the courthouse, but there was never a situation where they were left un-attended,” he says. “So, as far as I can tell, in my opinion, I understand why they’re concerned but it’s much ado about nothing.

“All of those ballots, the voted and the un-voted ballots, were in sealed boxes. They were sealed with tamper tape that was put on them by the election officials on election night.”

A noted area attorney, Schoeneman points out that if he were in Hurd’s shoes, he likely would be doing the same thing – to a point.

“The only issue that I have with what’s going on right now,” he says, “is that some of the characterizations that have been made, I think, are a little inflammatory.”

Should Obenshain’s team believes it enough evidence to credibly question the results, it could contest the election and request that the General Assembly decide the matter in a so-called nuclear option.