Virginia Democrat Andrew P. Miller today challenged the official results of the Nov. 7 Senate race that he narrowly lost to Republican John W. Warner, saying he has "dignificant, unanswered questions as to its accuracy."
Citing what he claimed were voting irregularities in three localities -- two in North Virginia -- Miller announced he will seek a recount of the election, an act unprecedented in a statewide election.
"I think it's the right thing to do," Miller, a former state attorney general, told a news conference at the state capitol.
Final state results approved last week showed that Warner, a former Navy secretary making his first bid for elective office, defeated Miller by a margin of 4,721 votes out of 1.2 million -- the closest margin in a general election in the state's recent history. Under state law, Miller is entitled to the recount if his margin of defeat is less than 1 per cent. It was about fourtenths of a percent, according to the final results.
Miller, in a detailed statement that bore the markings of his profession as a lawyer, said today he had decided Friday to demand the recount "pursuant to the urgings of many persons... who believe that the closeness of the tally... presently clouds the election returns.
Republicans have called repeatedly on Miller to concede the election -- a step the Democrat again refused to take today. If the recount confirms Warner's election, Miller said he would "be among the first to congratulate him."
Warner and Republican Gov. John N. Dalton both rejected Miller's hope that the recount will overturn the GOP victory. "We are confident that the integrity and accuracy of the official canvass by the State Board of Elections will be confirmed," Warner said through a spokesman.
One top Republican strategist expressed glee at Miller's decision, an act that could cost him $120,000 if the recount goes against him. "I would rather the Democrats spend the $120,000 on the recount than on another election," the GOP aide said. Only if Miller wins the recount will the state pay the costs of the vote checking process.
Warner said he will continue his activities as a "senator-elect." Miller said he is confident the recount can be completed before Jan. 15 when the Senate convenes and Warner is scheduled to be sworn into office.
Miller cited what he said were apparent irregularities with the vote totals in Fairfax City, Alexandria and Rockingham County in the Shenandoah Valley. He said there were problems elsewhere with absentee ballots "whose validity is frequently difficult to determine."
Miller did not mention the number of votes he thinks may have been improperly counted, but he spoke generally about the problems in Northern Virginia.
In Fairfax City, results from one voting machine showed more votes cast in the Warner-Miller contest than the actual number of persons voting on that machine, he said.
Miller also claimed that in Alexandria and Fairfax City, "votes were recorded on voting machines in columns where no candidate was listed and which columns were thus presumably not operable."
In addition, the total number of Senate votes "in at least 25 jurisdictions" was fewer than the number of votes cast in the congressional races, which Miller called unusual. Miller concluded that "there were an unusually large number" of people who either did not vote "or whose votes were not counted" in the senatorial race at those locations. CAPTION: Picture, ANDREW P. MILLER... recount could cost $120,000