Claiming his prize "with humility," Republican John W. Warner won certification yesterday as the official winner of Virginia's U.S. Senate election, leaving Democrat Andrew P. Miller to weigh a possible request for a recount.
The official canvass by the three-member State Board of Elections showed Warner now the Nov. 7 balloting 613,232 to 608,511, a margin of 4,721 votes out of 1.22 million cast - Virginia's closest general election ever for a Senate seat.
Warner received 50.2 percent of the vote to 49.9 percent for Miller. There were 513 write-in votes.
The news of Warner's victory was announced by Gov. John Dalton at a meeting or Republican governors in Williamsburg and Warner, who was visiting the session with his wife, actress Elizabeth Taylor was cheered by the GOP state executives.
Later, Dalton and Joan Mahan, the secretary of the State Board of Elections, joined Warner at a press conference and presented him his official certificates of election.
Warner said he was "very humbled at this moment by the trust and confidence reposed in me by the majority of Virginians participating in the recent election."
"With humility, but unequivocally, I am claiming victory," he said.
Taylor, in grey suit, black cape, and gold necklace, described herself as "just thrilled" in a separate interview with a wire service reporter. "Our own figures were very close to the final official ones, but it's nice to know it's all official," she said.
Warner, asked if Miller should concede, said "That's entirely in his judgement." He said he had received no word from the Miller camp.
"I wish him well in his next venture in life, and hope he can continue in public service," Warner added.
Miller could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Because Warner's margin of victory is less than 1 per cent of the total vote cast, Miller has an automatic right to a court-supervised recount. He must ask for new tabulation of votes no later than Dec. 7, and if he loses that recount, he would have to pay its costs estimated at $120,000.
Miller fund raiser Linda Hennessee of Fairfax County said "about 30 to 35 percent" of the money needed for a recount has been raised in pledges or actual contributions.
She said the fund-raising effort is being pressed by Miller supporters and that Democratic committees throughout the state are scheduling special meetings to help in the effort.
The state's official vote count reduced Warner's unofficial victory margin by 469 votes. The unofficials tabulation was compiled by the private News Election Service, which relied on telephoned reports from precinct and city and county election offices.
Miller's lawyer, former state attorney general Anthony F. Troy, said after the official certification of Warner that Miller and his advisers "are continuing to weigh the options open to him and to determine whether funds can be raised to pay the cost of a recount."
Troy cited several instances of faulty voting machine tabulations uncovered during the official count as the type of error that Miller would hope to discover in a recount.
In a Fairfax City precinct, he said, it was discovered that one machine, registered 650 votes in the Senate race even though only 643 persons used the machine. Another mahcine at that precinct, he said, registerd 10 votes between the Miller and Warner columns, causing election officers to disregard them in totals.
Miller's hopes for reversing the outcome for the election through a recount would depend on finding errors - errors finally resolved in his favor - through examination of about 4,000 voting machines and a new count of a relatively small number of paper ballots.
In its official tabulation of the vote, state election officials balanced precinct tally sheets against city and county totals compiled by local election officials but did not conduct a general reexamination of totals recorded on voting machines.
Mahan, said voting tabulations were rechecked in only five or six of the state's 1,857 precints during the course of the official count. Those checks were made because of apparent errors in tally sheets compiled by precint officials or because of questions raised by partisan poll observers. Troy said a Miller observer called attention to the discrepancies at the Fairfax City precinct.
Mahan said the official count finally found only three errors affecting the margin between Warner and Miller. All three were resolved in Miller's favor, narrowing the difference between the candidates by 13 votes.