Alexandria Circuit Court Chief Judge Donald M. Haddock decided Wednesday to hold a recount Monday, January 26, at the Alexandria Courthouse where he and two other Virginia judges hope to solve the messy controversy over who owns the West Ends seat in the Virginia House of Delegates Democrat Charniele Herring or Republican Joe Murray.
Meanwhile, residents of the 46th District (covering the West End and a small portion of Fairfax County) lack representation in the General Assembly. Despite the Virginia State Board of Elections certifying Herring the winner, the Republican-controlled House voted along party lines not to seat her on the first day of the 2009 legislative session last week.
Murray, along with area GOP members, hopes to attain the seat which he lost to Herring by a mere 16 votes in a special election earlier this month.
It is my sincere hope that we can put last weeks political gamesmanship behind us, ensure the people of the 46th District have a vote on the House floor, and focus on issues that matter, stated Del. David Englin (D-45) of the neighboring Alexandria district.
On Wednesday, a litigious battle began between Herrings and Murrays lawyers. Murrays side believes the recount should include improperly marked ballots and late absentee ballots, while Herrings lawyers are fighting for what they believe is her rightful seat on the bench.
According to the Commonwealths recount procedure, The determination of the votes in a recount shall be based on votes cast in the election and shall not take into account … any absentee ballots or provisional ballots sought to be cast but ruled invalid and not cast in the election. The law also states that the eligibility of any voter to have voted shall not be an issue in a recount.
Herrings attempts to cast votes on the House floor have been refused on multiple occasions, despite her continued presence in Richmond.
Despite their act, which is a travesty to democracy, I will do what I always do, Herring stated in an open letter to her constituents. Wake up in the morning and show up to work. This General Assembly session is not about me, it is about you.
There is no blatant precedent in Virginias General Assembly history, though Minnesota Democrat Al Franken was barred from taking his Senate seat pending a recount of the votes between him and Republican competitor Norm Coleman. He won the recount but is still unseated, pending Colemans newest lawsuit against the recount.
Judge Haddock, along with Judge Will Taylor of Hampton and Judge Pam Baskerville of Petersburg, will preside over the recount at 10 a.m. Monday in Alexandria. Viriginia law states that The State Board of Elections shall promulgate standards for matters that will promote a timely and accurate resolution of the recount. So far, 76 bills have passed through the House while Herring has remained unseated, according to the General Assembly website.