Alexandria Election Victor Again Blocked From Seat

By Michael Laris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 16, 2009

Sitting in the back of the chamber, Charniele Herring, the certified winner of an Alexandria area House election Tuesday, considered the arguments for and against changes in a law on reporting traffic accidents.

She grabbed a gray piece of paper used to record votes when members aren't in their seats, filled in the details about Senate Bill 39, voted yes and then handed it to the House clerk after the session.

"He refused to take it," Herring said.

For a second day, House Republican leaders blocked Herring from taking a seat, saying they want a recount to be completed first. Official results had her winning by 16 votes.

A recount could be completed within hours, but an Alexandria judge set a preliminary hearing for Wednesday and the recount itself for Jan. 26. The court is closed today in commemoration of native Virginians Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson; on Monday in commemoration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday; and again Tuesday for the presidential inauguration.

A House vote to seat Herring failed yesterday, as one had Wednesday, leaving the 46th District without a representative and some in Alexandria fuming. House Minority Leader Ward L. Armstrong (D-Henry) refused to rule out potential legal action.

"It's completely outrageous, unreasonable and unfair," said Alexandria City Council member Ludwig P. Gaines (D). "It's a sad day for anyone who cares about one person-one vote and having your duly elected officials recognized for who they are."

More than a quarter of the 45-day session will have passed before the recount is scheduled to begin. "One day denied is one day too many for the residents of Alexandria," Gaines said.

"It's a political game on the Republicans' part, that's all it is," Herring said. "It's not happening to me; it's happening to my community. They are the ones being harmed."

GOP candidate Joe Murray disagreed: "I don't know how they can call it Republican political games when Virginia law expressly stipulates that if the electoral margin is less than 1 percent, the candidate who is down is permitted to request a recount."

Murray's attorney, Jason Torchinsky, said 25 absentee ballots are of concern.

Staff writer Tim Craig contributed to this report.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company