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Better Safe Than Sorry?

Concerned Ken Cuccinelli could influence the election’s outcome through the AG’s office, state Democrats are already getting ready to contest the results.

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With more than two months to go before the general election, state Democrats already are working to gather the materials they would need to contest the results.

Earlier this month, a lawyer for the Democratic Party of Virginia asked for reams of data from the state’s 133 voter registrars, many of whom responded with surprise and confusion, says Richmond General Registrar Kirk Showalter.

She described the request as unusually broad and strangely timed. The party asked for voter registration applications and absentee ballots -- information that would more typically be sought the day after a close election. The party also made some unprecedented requests, Showalter says, asking, for example, for copies of the paper poll books that election-day staff uses to check in voters.

The Democrats say the information is necessary this year because Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli has declined to step down from his current post as the state’s Attorney General. It’s traditional for sitting attorneys general in Virginia leave office before mounting a run for governor.

“This is an election where Ken Cuccinelli is both a candidate for Governor and an official whose job it is to provide legal counsel to the office that oversees the election for Governor,” says the party’s spokesman, Brian Coy. “In light of that blatant conflict of interest, the DPVA submitted requests for public information that will help ensure that every legal vote is counted accurately.”

Political analyst Larry Sabato says the Democratic party’s request for data makes sense in the context of current predictions that the race will be extremely close.

“No one can know that, and somehow I doubt it,” Sabato says. “But this is the kind of thing you'd do if you want to be prepared for a close election that could come down to absentees. And campaign professionals are paid to be prepared for all eventualities.”

The Democrats temporarily have rescinded the request while they work with State Board of Elections staff to refine its scope, Justin Riemer, deputy secretary of the board, confirms.

On Wednesday, the chairwoman of the state Democratic Party formally asked Cuccinelli to recuse himself from representing the State Board of Elections should any legal matters arise. A spokesman for Cuccinelli says the attorney general won’t because there’s currently no conflict of interest. The spokesman says the staff member assigned to the State Board of Elections is an impartial, career civil servant.

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