A three-judge panel is scheduled to meet in Prince William Circuit Court next week to continue the vote recount process for the June 8 Republican primary contest between Martha W. Hendley and Supervisor Edgar S. Wilbourn III, an election that Wilbourn won by just 11 votes.
Hendley's attorney has said the primary was possibly tainted by felons casting ballots and the omission of four absentee ballots from tallies. Statistics for the Gainesville District released by county election officials last week indicate that there are just three felons registered to vote in the district and that none of them went to the polls last month. Even if the four omitted absentee ballots were for Hendley, she still would need four more votes to claim victory.
John Foote, who is representing Wilbourn during the recount, said any of the previously counted votes could possibly change. He said it is unlikely that the result of mechanically tabulated votes from voting machines would change.
Attorneys for both candidates are planning to present a joint agreement regarding the recount procedures to the panel of judges at a hearing Aug. 4. Should the judges accept the agreement, the recount could begin as soon as that day.
The procedures, which are spelled out in an eight-page court order, essentially call for a secure recounting of the ballots by county election officials, appointed recount teams and an observer from each candidate's camp. The ballots will be counted in the Circuit Court, where all the documents are now securely held.
The judges also will rule on the way in which the absentee ballots will be tallied, either by an electronic scanning machine or by hand. Wally Covington, secretary of the county elections board, told the court in June that he would prefer a hand count of the 71 absentee ballots. But state law may not permit such an action. Judges also will consider the question of felon voters.
Both Hendley and Wilbourn each received slightly more than 41 percent of the 3,004 votes, with candidate Kevin Childers getting about 17 percent. Hendley submitted a petition to the Circuit Court in June challenging the vote count, a process the county will finance because the outcome was decided by less than one-half of 1 percent.
Both sides have agreed that they are committed to discovering the true results of the election.
Along with Prince William Circuit Court Judge Leroy F. Millette Jr., two judges from other jurisdictions will sit on the panel next week, as mandated by state law. Foote said they will be former Circuit Court judges Barnard F. Jennings, of Fairfax County, and William Winston, of Arlington County.