Fairfax County looms large in Virginia's AG recount

Brian Schoeneman, Secretary of the Fairfax County Electoral Board and one of two Republicans on the three-person panel, is relatively certain in his assessment when asked about three particulars regarding the looming recount in Virginia’s attorney general election, in which Democrat Mark Herring defeated Republican Mark Obenshain by 165 votes:

• While stressing that no voting machines are infallible, he believes those used in the county will be reliably accurate in assessing undervotes or overvotes.

• Barring major, unforeseen circumstances, he sees the possibility of the AG’s race being removed from the voters’ hands and into the Republican-controlled state Legislature as highly unlikely.

• He was -- and remains – annoyed by insinuations by certain factions of the state GOP and the Obenshain camp that Fairfax County mishandled parts of the election-night process as well as its subsequent steps regarding provisional votes.

On the third point, he’s especially direct.

“I’m a little saddened by the fact that so many folks on my side of the aisle were so willing to throw Fairfax County and myself under the bus when there’s no evidence that we did anything inappropriate,” Schoeneman says. “. . . . And if they don’t trust me because I’ve got a reputation for being pragmatic, fine. But it’s not just me, it’s (electoral board vice-chairman) Steve Hunt (R), a guy that ran for state senate and came very close to winning.

“He’s as conservative if not more conservative than Ken Cuccinelli, and he and I were side-by-side voting in lockstep the entire time throughout this process. So if they don’t trust me. . ., they should trust Steve.”

At issue are both the some 2,000 votes on one scanning machine that were discovered to have been not included in the initial tallies, as well as the fact that Fairfax County granted provisional voters more time to verify their votes than did other jurisdictions in the state.

In both cases, the votes went Herring’s way. And when Charles E. Judd, former chief of Virginia’s GOP and now chairman of the state’s Board of Elections, certified the votes he did so while questioning the methods used in Fairfax County. Many conservative bloggers also have raised red flags about a county that’s reliably Blue.

“They should feel comfortable in knowing that we did the right thing and that we followed the law,” Schoeneman says, “and that there was no way that we were going to let anybody, regardless of party, steal this election or play games with the rules.”

When asked last week during a conference call about Fairfax County's bearings on the recount, Obenshain lawyers declined to go into specifics.{ }

As for the General Assembly being asked to declare a winner if there’s evidence the election was improperly conducted, per state law, Schoeneman is dubious, at best.

“Here’s the thing -- if this goes to the legislature, and the Republicans put Obenshain in, regardless of what happens in the recount, for the next four years everybody on the Democratic side is going to go after him, saying that he’s illegitimate, he’s not really the attorney general and Republicans stole the election,” he says. “And it would be impossible for him to do his job. And also, it would play into all the worst fears that everybody has about elections.

“So, I would be very hesitant to say it might go that route. I think that’s the nuclear option, and I think everybody is going to try to avoid it.”