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McDonnell Clinches Attorney General Race

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The recount was conducted under the supervision of a three-judge panel and began Tuesday in local election offices and courtrooms across the state. Deeds had attempted to have all ballots rerun through the same machines on which they were tabulated on Election Day.

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But the judicial panel rejected his motion, and paper ballots were the only ones that were recounted in most places. In localities with optical scanners, the most widely used among four types of voting methods in the state, officials merely double-checked the math by comparing totals on computerized ballot tapes and poll books recording how many people voted.

Then, state police picked up sealed boxes holding the results from each jurisdiction and ferried them to state election officials in Richmond to certify. Most arrived in cardboard boxes sealed with packing tape, although one local election board sent the results in a large Tupperware container, said Jean Jensen, secretary of the State Board of Elections.

A small auditorium where jurors typically gather to await their assignments was cleared to allow state election officials to work at six large tables. At each table were two state workers opening the boxes and recording the results, two observers acting on behalf of the candidates and an accountant.

Attorneys representing McDonnell and Deeds roamed the room, dashing from table to table as minor problems arose. The slightest deviation from instructions -- a form that was not initialed properly, illegible handwriting, a document placed in the wrong envelope, or a bewildering, messy worksheet that looked like someone's misplaced homework -- required attorneys to confer.

In the end, the changes were minimal.

McDonnell said he thought the recount was worthwhile, despite the change of only 37 votes and the cost of more than $100,000 to taxpayers, $300,000 in legal fees and staff salary for McDonnell and a similar sum for Deeds.

"It's not about 37 votes," he said. "It's about the fairness and accuracy of the election."

The recount attracted the attention of at least one soldier serving in Baghdad. McDonnell's daughter, Jeanine, 24, a second lieutenant in the Army, called him on his cell phone about 2 p.m. in Richmond, 10 p.m. in Baghdad, to ask whether he had the results yet. The day before the recount, McDonnell said, she had gone out with her unit in a convoy and been shot at.


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