Handful of Ballots to Decide Virginia's 5th District Race

By Sandhya Somashekhar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 6, 2008

Election officials tallied votes and pored over provisional ballots yesterday in the close contest between veteran Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. (R) and Democratic challenger Tom S. Perriello in a race that will determine whether Republicans maintain a majority of Virginia's House seats.

As of last night, Perriello, a national security consultant, held a lead of 31 votes over the six-term Republican whose 5th Congressional District stretches from Charlottesville to the North Carolina border. But the results varied from hour to hour; at one point in the day, Goode led by six votes.

"More information is coming minute by minute," said Jessica Barba, a spokeswoman for Perriello's campaign. "We need to hold our breath until every vote is counted and make sure every voice is heard."

The tallies fluctuated as election officials double-checked paperwork and reviewed provisional and absentee ballots, posting updated numbers every hour or so on the State Board of Elections Web site. Board officials said the results will not be certified until Nov. 24, after which the losing party can decide whether to request a recount.

Goode has easily won reelection every two years since he was first elected to the House in 1996. But on Tuesday, he faced a Democratic tide that sent former governor Mark R. Warner to the Senate and led the state to support Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for president. The surge also helped newcomer Glenn Nye (D) defeat Rep. Thelma D. Drake (R) in Virginia's 2nd District and helped Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly step into the void left by the retirement of Rep. Tom Davis (R) in Northern Virginia's 11th District.

Virginia has eight Republicans and three Democrats in the House. If Perriello is successful in unseating Goode, not only will the state have two Democratic senators, but a majority of its members of the House will be Democrats as well.

Officials with both campaigns yesterday said they had not decided whether they would request a recount.

"Let's get through the process first before we start talking about a recount," said John Scofield, a Goode volunteer who is authorized to speak for the campaign.

Also at issue are absentee ballots. Under Virginia law, the state is not permitted to count absentee ballots that arrive after polls close. But Arizona Sen. John McCain has filed suit in U.S. District Court asking that Virginia count ballots that arrive within 10 days of the election, including those from overseas.

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