Democrats still held out hope that Sen. R. Edward Houck (D-Spotsylvania) could win his race against Republican Bryce Reeves, as local elections officials met Wednesday to count provisional ballots and review calculations and tapes from voting machines and other records for errors.
But after such an initial canvas, Reeves’s lead actually grew — from an 86-vote margin to 224 votes.
“The race for this seat remains too close to call,” said Craig Bieber, Houck’s campaign manager. “There were several significant discrepancies during Tuesday night’s tabulation that deserve further attention during the canvassing and certification process.”
At one point, the state had Houck carrying a Spotsylvania precinct by 140 votes, but it was later discovered that Reeves actually won the precinct, Bieber said. He said he does not doubt that Reeves won that location, but wonders if other errors ultimately would be resolved in Houck’s favor.
“We are still hearing from people,” Bieber said. “There were discrepancies.” He declined to elaborate, saying it would be premature.
But the Reeves campaign wasn’t holding back.
“Reeves Elected Senator,” said the headline on a news release issued by his campaign before midnight Tuesday.
“We’re happy to be where we’re at,” said Reeves’s campaign manager, Chris Leavitt. “We know we need to go through this process and continue to cross our T’s and dot our I’s.”
About 100 to 150 provisional ballots were cast in the 17th District Senate race, according to State Board of Elections Secretary Donald Palmer. The results of the canvass will be forwarded to the Board of Elections, which will review the results and certify them Nov. 28. After that, a candidate has 10 days to petition the Circuit Court in his home county for a recount.
There are no automatic recounts in Virginia. But a candidate who has lost by a margin of 1 percent or less may request one at his own expense. If the margin is 0.51 percent or less, the local jurisdiction pays for the recount. If Wednesday’s tallies ultimately are certified, the difference in the Houk-Reeves race is exactly 0.5 percentage points.