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Virginia vote counters ready for a close race that could take days to resolve

Other states quickly took center stage after Election Day 2020, but the vote count in Virginia was another prime example of how bad actors can sow misinformation by taking advantage of the general public’s ignorance. with electoral procedures. The Associated Press called the state for President Joe Biden about half an hour after the polls closed. At the time, only 10% of the vote had been recorded, and Trump was still leading the first vote count. This lead in the incomplete tally persisted for hours, which conspiracy theorists used to claim the state had been stolen from Trump.

In fact, Biden won the state by a huge margin. Trump’s fleeting advance was due to a combination of Republican-leaning areas reporting results earlier than Democratic-dominated counties, as the PA noted in its explanation of his call, and Democrats voting so disproportionate via mail ballots, which were usually reported later in the evening.

There are some new changes that should make the process even smoother and clearer in Virginia. A law passed earlier this year requires advance in-person voting and postal ballots to be declared separately, having previously been declared in a single installment, which election officials say will improve the process.

“This separation allows for a couple of different things: it means people will know where the votes are coming from,” said Brenda Cabrera, Election Officer for the City of Fairfax and President of the Voter Registrars Association of Virginia. “Dividing it also allows us to get those results faster. “

The new law also requires jurisdictions to start pre-processing postal ballots no later than one week before the election. A lack of preprocessing of mail-in ballots is what made the ballot count – which was strongly Democratic in 2020 after Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting – took so long in states like Pennsylvania Last year.

Scott Konopasek, the new Fairfax County Registrar General, said “it’s going to look like a very different night” in his county this year compared to years past. Fairfax County, which is separate from the town of Fairfax, is a notorious Democratic stronghold among election observers for its late reporting.

“As early as seven o’clock, or just after seven o’clock, I will report the absent party,” Konopasek said, noting that these numbers have historically been one of the last things of the evening. He said he expected the first results of the in-person vote to be released within an hour of the polls closing and that constituency figures should start arriving around 8 p.m.

“The giant big bite of ballots that in the past mysteriously manifested at the end will start this time at kick-off,” Konopasek said. He noted that this was a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction decision, and that others will not have the same reporting deadline as him.

For example, Loudoun County Clerk General Judy Brown wrote in an email that she expected her jurisdiction to report “the first ballot numbers followed by polling day votes followed by mail ballots.” , allowing the possibility of postal ballots to be flagged in the same window. as votes on polling day. She wrote that she expected the county’s results to be released for the most part no later than 9 p.m., two hours after the polls close, “if all goes well.”

But if the election is extremely close, it may be necessary to wait until Friday to know the winner. The state allows the counting of ballots canceled by the US Postal Service on or before Election Day and received by noon on Friday.

These late ballots “will be flagged once the absent central precinct meets again on Friday after the noon deadline,” said Allison Robbins, Election Officer for Wise County, located at the southwestern tip. of State.

That number was low in 2020, the first year that postal voting was available to all Virginians, reaching around 10,000 votes out of the nearly 4.5 million people who voted last year.

Election officials urge voters to be patient as the results arrive. Cabrera of Fairfax City noted that “anything that was reported on election night is unofficial,” and always has been. She said officials go through “a series of checks and balances” to make sure the official results are accurate. Election officials noted that corrections to vote totals are common. They also all expressed their confidence in having a good election within a week.

“We are not a top-down process in Virginia. It is the local officials of the 133 jurisdictions who manage and administer the elections, ”said Robbins, outgoing former president of the state’s association of local election officials. “I am very confident in Virginia’s processes and am extremely proud of the work done by our local people. “

A recount is also possible, if the difference between the two candidates is less than 1 percentage point. A petition for a recount can be filed by the late candidate within 10 days of certification of the statewide election, which takes place on November 15. If the race is less than half a point, the state bears the cost, and if it is greater than what the final candidate pays for it.

Even still, there is a window of opportunity for bad actors to profit from the vote count, and parts of the MAGA world beyond Trump have already started to broadcast these conspiracy theories.

One America News Network, the far-right cable network favored by the former president, aired a segment over the weekend urging Tories to volunteer in Virginia to guard against suspected fraud. “Are there enough Republican volunteers to make sure there is no ballot at midnight?” Christina Bobb, the NAO host who has been a major supporter of partisan election revision across the country, said in the segment captured by liberal watchdog Media Matters. “Are there enough volunteers bold enough to ask questions of suspicious people doing suspicious things?” “

Virginia State Senator Amanda Chase, who proudly calls herself “Trump in Heels,” is at the forefront of Republicans who falsely say the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.

Youngkin, the Republican candidate, did not repeat these sentiments. After winning the nomination, he said he believed Biden was legitimately elected, which he did not say directly in the primary. Youngkin said during the first gubernatorial debate that Virginia “will have a clear and fair election,” and he and McAuliffe are committed to accepting the results.

Democrats accuse Youngkin of trying to play both ways, of prioritizing “electoral integrity” efforts during the primary and calling for audits of electoral machinery, accepting Trump’s support and the campaign with Chase. Youngkin, in turn, asked McAuliffe to apologize for claiming that the 2000 election was “stolen” as a result of the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court decision, and for saying on the stump that Georgian Democrat Stacey Abrams would be the governor of her state if it weren’t for the denial of voters’ right to vote that “won the votes”.

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