Well, using some math and my familiarity with Virginia’s precincts, it was apparent that the drop-off rate in Fairfax County was far higher from 2012 than it was in the 10th or 11th district. And when I confronted the secretary of the board of elections with that math he acknowledged that there must be a problem. And on that Thursday night he forwarded that on to his superior, the general registrar, who then called for a canvass meeting the next morning to look at the district votes, which, they did and they found 3,008 additional votes for attorney general. So that was the #SevenCornersSurprise. Because there’s a neighborhood in Fairfax County called Seven Corners were these votes were counted wrong to begin with or not fully tallied.
And there were more revelations the following day?
The second thing that came to light the next day is the #BedfordBlast, which is in Bedford County, where there were close to 700 votes that had not been tallied on Election Night that ended up benefiting the Republican. Then a Democratic source had alerted me to a possible discrepancy in Richmond where several precincts had not fully counted their ballots, or the tally sheet that the general registrar had didn’t match what the state board of elections had in their system and the results they were reporting for the rest of the state. So we named that the #ShockoeSlipUp after the Shockoe Slip neighborhood of Richmond. And sure enough when Richmond canvased its ballots in a very, very public way on Monday they added another 190 votes to one precincts’s total and that ended up switching the lead in the race from Obenshain being ahead by 17 votes to Herring being ahead by 99.
Were you surprised elections officials were engaging you so publicly throughout the process?
[Fairfax election board secretary] Brian Schoeneman is really the model of official election counters engaging in social media. I think his example is one, if the only, in the state, and it added a level of transparency to the process. He put himself out there on Twitter to be held accountable for counting votes correctly. Can’t say that about many election officials.
How different is Virginia’s election board and the way it counts ballots in real time to other states you might follow?
I’d rate Virginia’s transparency very highly. A lot of partisans are fanning the flames of conspiracy theories by saying since there’s a Republican governor, there’s two Republicans and only one Democrat on every election board in the state, but the beauty of partisans serving in those roles is that they’re able to flag misbehavior and keep the process honest. I haven’t seen a single reason to doubt election boards’ motivations in getting to the bottom of every vote.
Where was traditional media as all this unfolded? Reporters were running it down, right?
These kinds of discrepancies were first reported on Twitter. Traditional media was behind the curve for the most part because it did not have the capabilities of crowd-sourcing these errors. The Washington Post had several different reporters who were trying to gather facts about the race but there were numerous instances in which the Post failed to bring the public the most accurate or most up-to-date info. The first was on Election Night when the Post website read that Obenshain appeared to have won a very close race. I was reporting live on Election Night that the precincts outstanding were more than capable of putting Herring in the lead, but that was what The Washington Post was reporting.