(This post has been updated.)
Louisa County elections officials will examine eight provisional ballots and voting records from an entire 1,398-vote precinct Thursday afternoon as they try to close the books on a pivotal state Senate race that will determine whether Republicans or Democrats control the chamber in Richmond.
All of the other jurisdictions in the 17th Senate District have completed the normal post-election process of reviewing provisional ballots, calculations and tapes from voting machines, Virginia State Board of Elections spokeswoman Susan Pollard said.
Republican Bryce Reeves led Sen. R. Edward Houck (D-Spotsylvania) by 224 votes as of the latest State Board of Elections figures. Reeves’s election-night lead of 86 votes widened Wednesday after a “keying error” was discovered in Culpeper.
The Republican Party of Virginia, under the mistaken impression that just a handful of Spotsylvania provisional ballots were outstanding, issued a news release Thursday morning claiming that the canvas was over.
“Now that all of the ballots have been counted and a thorough review has been conducted in all of the jurisdictions in the 17th Senate district, it is clear that Senator-elect Bryce Reeves has won this election,” Dave Rexrode, executive director of the state party, said in the release.
State GOP spokesman Garren Shipley said in an interview that fewer than five Spotsylvania provisional ballots were outstanding, assuring victory for Reeves as well as a Republican takeover of the Senate.
“If the numbers move, it’s gonna be by single digits,” he said. “We were very quiet until the canvass [was completed] because we’ve seen these things flip on a fat finger before.”
But the canvas had not been completed. Spotsylvania had, in fact, finished its review on Wednesday. But Louisa County was not done. And provisional ballots weren’t the only thing in play there.
In addition to eight provisional ballots, county elections officials still had to review voting records from an entire precinct, where 1,398 ballots had been cast, said Cristy E. Watkins, Louisa’s general registrar.
“We’re reconvening this afternoon,” Watkins said.
About 3 p.m., an official in the Louisa elections office said that they had finished reviewing the provisional ballots and that they had added “a couple” of those votes to the totals; he said he could not be more specific.
Louisa officials still had to review voting records for the outstanding precinct but expected to complete that process by day’s end.
Once the local jurisdictions complete their canvas, they will forward results to the State Board of Elections. The board will review the results and formally certify them on Nov. 28. The losing candidate would have 10 days from that date to request a recount.