Va. Makes It Official: Victory Is Webb's

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

RICHMOND, Nov. 27 -- The Virginia State Board of Elections on Monday certified Democrat James Webb as the winner of one of the closest U.S. Senate races in state history, making official what his opponent, Republican Sen. George Allen, conceded was true 48 hours after the election ended.

The margin of Webb's victory fluctuated for several days after the Nov. 7 election, but the elections board said Monday that Webb received 9,329 votes more than Allen to clinch the upset. His surprise win -- in the last Senate race to be decided this year -- gave control of the chamber to the Democrats, helping shift the balance of power in Washington.

The final tally gave Webb 1,175,606 votes, or 49.59 percent. Allen received 1,166,277 votes, or 49.20 percent. Independent candidate Gail Parker received 26,102 votes, or 1.1 percent.

The outcome of the race was in doubt for two days as Allen considered whether to contest Webb's narrow victory. Under state law, Allen still has 10 days to request a recount because the margin of Webb's victory was less than 1 percent.

But Allen conceded victory Nov. 9 in Alexandria, effectively rejecting the idea of a recount.

"It is with deep respect for the people of Virginia, and to bind factions together for a positive purpose, that I do not wish to cause more rancor by protracted litigation which would, in my judgment, not alter the results," Allen said at that time.

Jean Jensen, secretary of the electoral board, said election officials were ready to carry out a recount under court supervision if one were requested. But she said she did not relish the idea of a long battle over ballots such as the one last year in the state Attorney General's race, won by Bob McDonnell. That recount stretched until just days before Christmas.

"Election officials all over the state are very relieved that we did not have to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas dealing with a recount," she said.

Jensen, a Democrat, said the election went smoothly, with few of the glitches that some had predicted. She said election officials received complaints about long lines and polls that closed a few minutes too early, but there were few reports of such major problems as fraud or systemic mechanical failures.

"There were what I call typical Election Day occurrences," she said.

Turnout was fairly heavy on Election Day, according to the final tally, which showed that 52.66 percent of the state's eligible voters cast ballots. That was higher than in 2002, when 44 percent cast ballots for a Senate candidate, but it was less than in 2004, when 71 percent voted in the presidential contest.

Jensen said she had predicted a turnout of closer to 65 percent, based on a higher-than-usual volume of absentee ballots.

"It was less than what I thought," she said. "But I make lousy turnout predictions."

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