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Virginia Beach Council recount begins, will cost about $150,000

Three Virginia Beach City Council races will be decided with a simultaneous recount.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) — Virginia Beach election officials estimate that city residents will hand-count about 80,000 ballots over the next few days as the city works to finish recounts in three city council races.

Registrar Donna Patterson said she's estimating that the recounts will cost the city and taxpayers close to $150,000. This cost includes renting high-speed ballot machines, paying staff and members who are counting ballots and providing lunch and snacks.

On Monday, more than 130 election officials, counters, voters, candidates, attorneys, and other individuals crowded a room in the Virginia Beach municipal center as the recounts began. Counters finished training in the morning, and then counted 17 of 100 precincts before the end of the day.

By the end of the day, Patterson said she now feels confident the recounts will be completed by the end of the week.

By combining the three recounts into one process, city officials and election board members have increased the number of ballots that will need to be checked and verified by people instead of ballot-counting machines.

If there is any type of error on a ballot in any of the three races, that ballot is not counted by the machine and is instead sorted into a group to be counted by Virginia Beach staff. That includes hand-counting races where this is no error, only because another race is affected.

Councilman-elect David Nygaard is one of three candidates who argued, through legal representation, to separate the recount processes at a hearing on Friday, December 14. He said the first day of counting all three race at once was hectic and chaotic.

"My concern is that any errors seem to be on hand-counts as opposed to machine counts, and now we're increasing the number of hand-counts," Nygaard said.

However, he added that he has full confidence in election board members and believes the current vote tallies and winners will be confirmed.

"I trust the process, and honestly, I don't think there will be any changes to the end results," Nygaard said.

In total, the estimated 80,000 hand-counted ballots would represent about half of the ballots cast.

The recount process will continue Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.

Patterson said she'd be able to more accurately predict when the recounts will be completed after Tuesday's counting.

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