Early Wednesday morning, Democrat Jim Webb declared victory in the Virginia Senate race over Republican Sen. George Allen, but the race is far from over.
Allen addressed supporters in Richmond telling them to stay tuned and that the vote counting would continue through the day. With the Senate race so close, Virginia now faces the very real possibility of a recount on the near horizon.
Along with Senate races in Tennessee, Missouri and Montana, the Virginia race is one of the closest in the 2006 election and could decide the party majority in the Senate.
While an informal winner will be announced shortly, the winner of the race will not be certified until Nov. 27. A canvas will take place over the course of the next seven days in which provisional ballots will be counted.
Each of the 134 localities in state of Virginia is responsible for posting its informal tallies tonight. Those tallies are being fed into the Virginia Board of Elections' real-time Web page. Each locality has a three-person electoral board, which is responsible for the canvas in its locality. It is during the canvas -- which begins Wednesday morning -- that the provisional ballots are counted for the first time.
According to Alcorn, each electoral board has seven days to complete the canvas.
Provisional ballots are distinct from absentee ballots, which include military and overseas ballots. Alcorn said provisional ballots traditionally make up a "very small number" of the overall votes. He said he has "no idea" right now how many provisional ballots there are.
"We'll want a new set of eyes for the provisional ballots,'' Alcorn said. "We'll want fresh eyes that haven't been up for 20 hours. There are inevitably typos and things, so the provisional ballot count will begin with the canvas.''
The state's recount rules stipulate that:
If the margin between candidates is 1 percent or less, the defeated candidate may ask for a recount.
After the close of the polls, the container of absentee ballots is to be opened by the officers of election. Absentee ballots are to be counted with other military and overseas ballots that are due by the close of polls on Election Day.
Standard votes are counted at the close of the polls at 7 p.m. Paper votes and votes from electronic machines stored in cartridges are counted separately.
Provisional ballots are counted if cast in the correct precinct. With provisional ballots, the electoral board is to meet on the day after the election and determine whether each person who submitted a provisional vote was entitled to do so. If the board determines a provisional vote was not cast according to the rules, the vote will not be counted.