Friday, December 8, 2023

Multiple recounts in Virginia Beach a first in state’s history

VIRGINIA BEACH — The three-judge panel overseeing election recounts for three City Council races ruled Friday on a number issues that will determine the path forward for three election recounts.

The ordeal is a first for the state.

“There has been no precedent in the Commonwealth” for three recounts from the same city at the same time, said Judge Glenn Croshaw, who is overseeing along with two other judges. “We’re making history here.”

Because of the lack of precedent, multiple parties with different ideas on how to proceed jockeyed in the courtroom Friday for influence over the process.

That jockeying was on display in court Friday, as six attorneys, three judges, 10 election officials, and a court clerk debated over the path forward.

“This is not a simple process,” Croshaw said. “It is complicated at its very best.”

Related story: City councilman sues opponent, alleging he did not live in district

Here are some of the major takeaways from Friday’s recount court session.

  • Over the objection of attorneys for John Moss, Louis Jones, and David Nygaard, the judges ruled the recount will use different ballot-counting machines than were used during the election. The new machines, the DS-850, counts much faster than the DS-200 models used during the election. The DS-200 counts 8 ballots per minute, while the DS-850 counts 200 per minute, according to a representative from the manufacturer, Election Systems and Software.
  • Judges dismissed a motion from Richard “RK” Kowalewitch to be part of the recount process.

Related story: New lawsuit seeks special election and disqualification of candidate

  • Judges unanimously rejected a request by Nygaard’s attorney Daniel Rogers to have three separate recounts. Rogers argued his proposal would reduce the number of damaged ballots because of excessive handling and would “make things easier on people and harder on the machines.” The judges did not agree with his logic and all three recounts will proceed at the same time.
  • The city has already rented three of the faster machines — two for the recount and one as a backup — at a cost of $51,000, said General Registrar Donna Patterson, who added the total cost of the recount will be “somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000.”
  • The recount will have 10 tables with six people counting votes at each — a pair for each of the three recounts; each table will have a deputy circuit court clerk; observers chosen by the candidates will watch the 60 vote counters, which means a possible 60 additional people. Add attorneys, judges, media, and the public — there could be up to 150 people in the room, said Patterson and multiple attorneys and election officials.

The city will perform logic and accuracy testing of the new ballot-counting machines Saturday at 10 a.m. The recount will begin Monday at 10:30 a.m. and is expected to last through the week.

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