UPDATED: Democrat Tom Osina widened his lead over Republican Ian Lovejoy in the Manassas City Council race Friday after provisional and absentee votes were tallied, according to unofficial results posted on the city's website.
But a recount remains a possibility as the difference between the candidates' vote tallies remains less than 1% of the total ballots cast in the Nov. 3 contest.
Osina, 67, is a political newcomer seeking his first term on the city council. He picked up another 127 votes Friday, giving him 6,958.
Lovejoy, 38, is seeking a third term on the city council. He garnered 78 more votes, giving him a total of 6,834, leaving a difference of 124. That's less than 1% of the total 16,851 ballots cast, meaning the race is eligible for a recount.
But Lovejoy -- or his campaign -- will have to pay for the recount because the vote difference is more than the .5% threshold that would trigger a free recount.
Lovejoy said late Friday afternoon he's waiting for an estimate on the cost of a recount and will make a decision on whether he'll request one next week.
This story has been revised to include the latest vote totals, which were emailed to the candidates at about 6:30 p.m. Friday, after the original update.
Original story: The deadline for all absentee ballots to be counted in Virginia was noon today, and at least one local race could be impacted by the new totals expected sometime this afternoon: the Manassas City Council race.
In Manassas, the mayor's office and three city council seats were up for reelection Nov. 3. As of Election Day, it appeared to be a Democratic sweep, with City Councilwoman Michelle Davis-Younger taking the mayor’s office and incumbent Councilmembers Pam Sebesky and Mark Wolfe and newcomer Tom Osina winning the city council seats.
But incumbent Councilman Ian Lovejoy, a Republican, trailed Osina by only 175 votes on election night. That difference further tightened to 75 votes Wednesday morning, when it was discovered that the tally from one vote scanner at the Grace Metz Middle School polling place was left out of the final vote count, Lovejoy said Friday morning.
Lovejoy, who is vying for a third term on the city council, said the mishap was “an honest mistake” and was discovered during a routine canvass of the vote, which is designed to catch any such issues.
As of Friday morning, there were at least 125 votes outstanding in the race, including 110 provisional ballots and 15 absentee ballots, Lovejoy said.
The 75 votes separating Lovejoy’s and Osina’s vote totals amounted to .55% of the total votes cast in the race. Races that result in vote-total differences of fewer than 1%, are eligible for a recount under Virginia law. The recount is free if the difference is less than .5%.
Lovejoy said Friday morning he is waiting for the new vote tally to make a final decision about a recount but is leaning toward making the request.
“Mistakes are made in elections, and if there’s a 75-vote difference, we want to make sure every vote was counted correctly,” Lovejoy said.
Since the biggest chunk of uncounted votes were cast on provisional ballots, the vote count won’t be known until after a 2 p.m. meeting during which the provisional ballots will be settled.
The meeting will include City of Manassas Registrar Susan Reed and representatives of both the Manassas Democratic and Republican committees. Lovejoy said his understanding is that most of the provisional ballots involve voters who requested mailed absentee ballot and later cast their votes in person. Those votes likely will be validated if election officials can confirm the mailed-in absentee votes were not also received and processed.
Most of the provisional votes have been pre-evaluated, but the final call will be made during the meeting, Lovejoy said. Updated results are expected late Friday afternoon.
Osina, for his part, said Friday he will await the final tally before considering any next steps. He said it’s too soon to say if he will ask for a recount if he winds up behind after the votes are counted.
“All I can say is, first of all, in a first-time run for office, to be in this situation its utterly amazing, to have come this far and to be considering a possible victory,” Osina said. “But we’ll have to wait and see.”
Reach Jill Palermo at firstname.lastname@example.org