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Obenshain campaign challenges Fairfax ballots

Republican Sen. Mark Obenshain’s legal team is raising questions about the security of some ballots in Fairfax County as part of the recount process for the race for attorney general.

Sen. Mark Herring won the election by 165 votes, prompting Obenshain to request a statewide recount.

In a motion filed in Richmond Circuit Court on Dec. 9, Obenshain’s lawyers say that several boxes and envelopes of ballots were returned to the Fairfax County Circuit Court clerk’s office after the required deadline. The envelopes were recorded as containing both counted and unused ballots.

The motion requests that county election officials provide a detailed explanation as to why the ballots were filed late and requests that the ballots in question not be counted as part of the recount until the court rules on them.

Herring won in Fairfax by a large margin, and about 17 percent of the total votes in favor of Herring were cast in Fairfax County, so disqualifying ballots cast here could have an effect on the outcome.

“Ballot security is an extremely important part of protecting the right to vote, and we are distressed by the lapse in ballot security in Fairfax County. Restoring public confidence requires, at a minimum, a full disclosure of the facts,” attorney William Hurd wrote in a letter to county election officials.

In a letter responding to the inquiry, Fairfax County Electoral Board Secretary Brian Schoeneman said the ballots were discovered in locked precinct carts after the deadline to return them to the court clerk’s office.

Despite their training, Schoeneman wrote, election officials sometimes leave boxes of ballots in the locker precinct carts, which are stored at a secure warehouse in Springfield. It is part of the county’s standard practice to go back and check the carts for ballots.

Schoeneman said there is a complete chain of custody recorded for each of the boxes and envelopes. All remained sealed and there was no evidence of tampering, he wrote. Election officers from the precincts in question will be interviewed about their failure to follow proper protocol, he said.

“There is no evidence, at this time, of any tampering or intentional mishandling of the ballots, and staff is confident that no tampering, intentional mishandling or other malfeasance that would call into question the integrity of the ballots in the two precincts affected took place,” Schoeneman wrote.

Cost of Dulles Toll Road rises in new year

A trip on the Dulles Toll Road will cost up to $3.50 starting Jan. 1. The new year will bring a 75-cent price hike at the main toll plaza, bringing the cost to $2.50 per trip. The cost for the ramps will remain at $1.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is using toll revenues to finance a portion of the cost of the Silver Line construction.

Jack Potter, president and CEO of the MWAA, said toll road commuters can take some solace in the fact that the authority no longer believes it will need to raise tolls in 2015.

The break is due to the anticipated low-interest federal loan to finance a portion of the second phase of the Silver Line, which will greatly reduce the authority’s borrowing costs, as well as additional funding obtained from state coffers.