Code of Virginia

Code of Virginia
Title 24.2. Elections
9/30/2020

Chapter 8. Recounts and Contested Elections.

Article 1. Recounts.

§ 24.2-800. Recounts in all elections.

A. The provisions of this article apply to all elections held in the Commonwealth.

B. When there is between any candidate apparently nominated or elected and any candidate apparently defeated a difference of not more than one percent of the total vote cast for the two such candidates as determined by the State Board or the electoral board, the defeated candidate may appeal from the determination of the State Board or the electoral board for a recount of the vote as set forth in this article. When there is between any write-in candidate apparently nominated or elected and any candidate apparently defeated, or between any candidate apparently nominated or elected and any write-in candidate apparently defeated, a difference of not more than five percent of the total vote cast for the two such candidates as determined by the State Board or the electoral board, the defeated candidate may appeal from the determination of the State Board or the electoral board for a recount of the vote as set forth in this article. In an election of electors for the President and Vice President of the United States, the presidential candidate shall represent the vice presidential candidate and slate of electors and be the party to the recount for purposes of this article.

C. When there is between the vote for a question and the vote against a question a difference of not more than 50 votes or one percent of the total vote cast for and against the question as determined by the State Board or the electoral board, whichever is greater, 50 or more voters qualified to vote on the question, by signing and filing their petition, may appeal from the determination of the State Board or the electoral board for a recount of the vote as set forth in this article.

1979, c. 293, § 24.1-249; 1981, c. 570; 1993, c. 641; 2009, c. 386; 2019, c. 382; 2020, c. 886.

§ 24.2-801. Petition for recount; recount court.

A. The petition for a recount of an election, other than an election for presidential electors, shall be filed within 10 days from the day the State Board or the electoral board certifies the result of the election under § 24.2-679 or 24.2-671, but not thereafter. The petition shall be filed in the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond in the case of any statewide office and in the circuit court of the county or city in which the candidate being challenged resides in the case of any other office. The petition shall be filed in the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond in the case of any statewide referendum and in the circuit court of any county or city comprising a part of the election district in the case of any other referendum.

B. The petition shall set forth the results certified by the State Board or electoral board and shall request the court to have the ballots in the election recounted.

C. In an election for office, a copy of the petition shall be served on the candidate apparently nominated or elected as provided under § 8.01-296 and within 10 days after the State Board or electoral board has certified the results of such election. In a referendum, a copy of the petition shall be so served on the governing body or chief executive officer of the jurisdiction in which the election was held.

D. The chief judge of the circuit court in which a petition is filed shall promptly notify the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, who shall designate two other judges to sit with the chief judge, and the court shall be constituted and sit in all respects as a court appointed and sitting under §§ 24.2-805 and 24.2-806.

1979, c. 293, § 24.1-249; 1981, c. 570; 1993, c. 641; 2003, c. 268; 2014, cc. 540, 576; 2016, c. 464; 2020, c. 886.

§ 24.2-801.1. Petition for recount of election for presidential electors; recount court.

A. The petition for a recount of an election for presidential electors shall be filed no later than 5:00 p.m. on the second calendar day after the day the State Board certifies the result of the election under § 24.2-679, but not thereafter. Presidential candidates who anticipate the possibility of asking for a recount are encouraged to so notify the State Board by letter as soon as possible after election day. The petition shall be filed in the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond. If any presidential candidate is eligible to seek a recount of the results of the election for presidential electors under § 24.2-800 the State Board shall, within 24 hours of the certification of the results, notify the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond and the Supreme Court of Virginia (i) that a recount is possible, (ii) which presidential candidate is eligible to seek a recount, and (iii) of the date the results were certified. The Circuit Court of the City of Richmond shall make arrangements to receive any such filing if the office would normally be closed the entire day, or prior to 5:00 p.m., on the second calendar day after the day the State Board certified the result of the election.

B. The petition shall set forth the results certified by the State Board and shall request the court to have the ballots in the election recounted.

C. A copy of the petition shall be served on the presidential candidate whose electors were apparently elected as provided under § 8.01-296 and within five calendar days after the State Board has certified the results of such election.

D. As soon as a petition is filed, the chief judge of the Circuit Court shall promptly notify the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, who shall designate two other judges to sit with the chief judge, and the court shall be constituted and sit in all respects as a court appointed and sitting under § 24.2-805.

E. Any recount of an election for presidential electors shall be held promptly and completed, in accordance with the provisions of 3 U.S.C. § 5, at least six days before the time fixed for the meeting of the electors.

2003, c. 268; 2014, cc. 540, 576; 2016, c. 464; 2020, c. 886.

§ 24.2-802. Recount standards.

A. The State Board of Elections shall promulgate standards for (i) the proper handling and security of voting systems, ballots, and other materials required for a recount, (ii) accurate counting of votes based upon objective evidence and taking into account the voting system and form of ballots approved for use in the Commonwealth, and (iii) any other matters that will promote a timely and accurate resolution of the recount.

B. The State Board shall promulgate additional standards and instructions for the conduct of simultaneous recounts of two or more elections in a single election district.

C. The chief judge of the circuit court or the full recount court may, consistent with State Board of Elections standards, resolve disputes over the application of the standards and direct all other appropriate measures to ensure the proper conduct of the recount.

1979, c. 293, § 24.1-250; 1980, c. 639; 1981, c. 570; 1982, c. 650; 1983, c. 461; 1984, c. 480; 1993, c. 641; 2000, cc. 938, 1057; 2001, cc. 639, 641, 646; 2002, cc. 601, 647; 2003, c. 268; 2004, c. 410; 2006, c. 689; 2007, cc. 285, 939, 943; 2008, c. 682; 2011, c. 522; 2014, cc. 540, 576; 2015, c. 740; 2016, c. 464; 2019, c. 382; 2020, c. 886.

§ 24.2-802.1. Preliminary hearing; court to fix procedure for recount, appoint officers, and supervise the recount.

A. Within seven calendar days of the filing of the petition for a recount of any election other than an election for presidential electors, or within five calendar days of the filing of a petition for a recount of an election for presidential electors, the chief judge of the circuit court shall call a preliminary hearing at which (i) motions may be disposed of and (ii) the rules of procedure may be fixed, both subject to review by the full court. The petitioner and his counsel and each other party and their counsel under supervision of the electoral board and its agents shall have access to pollbooks and other materials used in the election for examination purposes, provided that individual ballots cast in the election shall not be examined at the preliminary hearing. The chief judge during the preliminary hearing shall review all security measures taken for all ballots and voting systems and direct, as he deems necessary, all appropriate measures to ensure proper security to conduct the recount.

The chief judge, subject to review by the full court, may set the place for the recount and may order the delivery of election materials to a central location and the transportation of voting systems to a central location in each county or city under appropriate safeguards.

B. After the full court is appointed under § 24.2-801 or 24.2-801.1, it shall call a hearing at which all motions shall be disposed of and the rules of procedure shall be fixed finally, and it shall issue a written order setting out such rules of procedure. The court shall call for the advice and cooperation of the Department, the State Board, or any local electoral board, as appropriate, and such boards or agency shall have the duty and authority to assist the court. The court shall fix any additional procedures, that are not provided for in this chapter, that shall provide for the accurate counting of votes in the election. The recount procedures to be followed throughout the election district shall be as uniform as practicable, taking into account the types of ballots and voting systems in use in the election district.

C. The court shall permit each candidate, or petitioner and governing body or chief executive officer, to select an equal number of the officers of election to be recount officials and to count printed ballots. The number shall be fixed by the court and be sufficient to conduct the recount within a reasonable period. The court may permit each party to the recount to submit a list of alternate officials in the number the court directs. There shall be at least one team from each locality using ballot scanner machines to insert the ballots into one or more scanners. Each team shall be composed of one representative of each party.

The court may provide that if, at the time of the recount, any recount official fails to appear, the remaining recount officials present shall appoint substitute recount officials who shall possess the same qualifications as the recount officials for whom they substitute. The court may select pairs of recount coordinators to serve for each county or city in the election district who shall be members of the county or city electoral board and represent different political parties. The court shall have authority to summon such officials and coordinators. On the request of any party to the recount, the court shall allow that party to appoint one representative observer for each team of recount officials. The representative observers shall have an unobstructed view of the work of the recount officials. The expenses of its representatives shall be borne by each party.

D. The court (i) shall supervise the recount and (ii) may require delivery of any or all pollbooks used and any or all ballots cast at the election, or may assume supervision thereof through the recount coordinators and officials.

2020, c. 886.

§ 24.2-802.2. General recount procedures.

A. For the purposes of this section:

"Overvote" means a ballot on which a voter casts a vote for a greater number of candidates or positions than the number for which he was lawfully entitled to vote and no vote shall be counted with respect to that office or issue.

"Undervote" means a ballot on which a voter casts a vote for a lesser number of candidates or positions than the number for which he was lawfully entitled to vote.

B. The recount of the votes shall be based on votes cast in the election and shall not take into account (i) any absentee ballots or provisional ballots sought to be cast but ruled invalid and not cast in the election, (ii) ballots cast only for administrative or test purposes and voided by the officers of election, or (iii) ballots spoiled by a voter and replaced with a new ballot.

C. The eligibility of any voter to have voted shall not be an issue in a recount. Commencing upon the filing of the recount, nothing shall prevent the discovery or disclosure of any evidence that could be used pursuant to § 24.2-803 in contesting the results of an election.

D. There shall be only one recount of the vote in each precinct. The recount of the vote shall be conducted as follows:

1. For paper ballots, the recount officials shall hand count the paper ballots using the standards promulgated by the State Board pursuant to § 24.2-802.

2. For ballot scanner machines, the recount officials shall rerun all the machine-readable ballots through a scanner programmed to count only the votes for the parties or issue in question in the recount and to set aside all ballots containing write-in votes, overvotes, and undervotes. The ballots that are set aside, any ballots not accepted by the scanner, and any ballots for which a scanner could not be programmed to meet the programming requirements of this subdivision, shall be hand counted using the standards promulgated by the State Board pursuant to § 24.2-802. If the total number of machine-readable ballots reported as counted by the scanner plus the total number of ballots set aside by the scanner do not equal the total number of ballots rerun through the scanner, then all ballots cast on ballot scanner machines for that precinct shall be set aside to be counted by hand using the standards promulgated by the State Board pursuant to § 24.2-802. Prior to running the machine-readable ballots through the ballot scanner machine, the recount officials shall ensure that logic and accuracy tests have been successfully performed on each scanner after the scanner has been programmed. The result calculated for ballots accepted by the ballot scanner machine during the recount shall be considered correct for those machine-readable ballots unless the court finds sufficient cause to rule otherwise.

3. Prior to the conclusion of the recount in each precinct, the recount officials shall segregate all ballots for which there is a question regarding the ballot's validity.

E. At the conclusion of the recount of each precinct, the recount officials shall write down the number of valid ballots cast, this number being obtained from the ballots cast in the precinct, or from the ballots cast as shown on the statement of results if the ballots cannot be found, for each of the two candidates or for and against the question. They shall submit the ballots or the statement of results used, as to the validity of which questions exist, to the court. The written statement of any one recount official challenging a ballot shall be sufficient to require its submission to the court. If, on all ballot scanners, the number of persons voting in the election, or the number of votes cast for the office or on the question, totals more than the number of names on the pollbooks of persons voting on the voting machines, the figures recorded by the machines shall be accepted as correct.

F. At the conclusion of the recount of all precincts, after allowing the parties to inspect the questioned ballots, and after hearing arguments, the court shall rule on the validity of all questioned ballots and votes. The court may not consider the validity of any ballots not set aside prior to the conclusion of the recount in each precinct. After settling all matters pertaining to the recount of the vote as raised by the parties, the court shall certify to the State Board and the electoral board (i) the vote for each party to the recount and declare the person who received the higher number of votes to be nominated or elected, as appropriate, or (ii) the votes for and against the question and declare the outcome of the referendum. The Department shall post on the Internet any and all changes made during the recount to the results as previously certified by it pursuant to § 24.2-679.

G. The recount proceeding shall be final and not subject to appeal.

H. Except in the case of a recount of an election for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or Attorney General, or for elector of President or Vice President of the United States, if the court finds that each party to the recount has received an equal number of votes, it shall issue a writ promptly ordering a special election be held to determine which candidate is elected to the office.

2020, cc. 284, 500, 886.

§ 24.2-802.3. Costs of the recount.

A. Costs of the recount shall be assessed against the counties and cities comprising the election district when (i) the candidate petitioning for the recount is declared the winner; (ii) the petitioners in a recount of a referendum win the recount; or (iii) there was between the candidate apparently nominated or elected and the candidate petitioning for the recount a difference of not more than one-half of one percent of the total vote cast for the two such candidates as determined by the State Board or electoral board prior to the recount. Otherwise the costs of the recount shall be assessed against the candidate petitioning for the recount or the petitioners in a recount of a referendum. If more than one candidate petitions for a recount, the court may assess costs in an equitable manner between the counties and cities and any such candidate if both are liable for costs under this subsection. Costs incurred to date shall be assessed against any candidate or petitioner who defaults or withdraws his petition.

B. The court shall appraise the costs of the recount subject to the following limitations: (i) no per diem payment shall be assessed for salaried election officials; (ii) no per diem payment to officers of election serving as recount officials shall exceed two-thirds of the per diem paid such officers by the county or city for service on election day; and (iii) per diem payments to alternates shall be allowed only if they serve.

C. Any petitioner who may be assessed with costs under subsection A shall post a bond with surety with the court in the amount of $10 per precinct in the area subject to recount. If the petitioner wins the recount, the bond shall not be forfeit. If the petitioner loses the recount, the bond shall be forfeit only to the extent of the assessed costs. If the assessed costs exceed the bond, he shall be liable for such excess.

2020, c. 886.

Article 2. Contested Elections.

§ 24.2-803. Contest of election to General Assembly.

A. This section applies to any general or special election of members to the General Assembly.

B. A contest of the election of any member to the General Assembly may be initiated by an unsuccessful candidate in the election, referred to hereafter as the contestant.

To initiate a contest, the contestant shall give written notice, in the manner provided in subsection D, of his intent to contest the election to the person or persons apparently elected, referred to hereafter as the contestee, and to the Clerk of the House of Delegates if he is contesting a House election or of the Senate if he is contesting a Senate election, no later than thirty days following the date of the election or three days after the conclusion of a recount, whichever is later.

The notice shall state the grounds on which the contestant intends to contest the election. The grounds shall include (i) objections to the eligibility of the contestee based on specific allegations, (ii) objections to the conduct or results of the election accompanied by specific allegations which, if proven true, would have a probable impact on the outcome of the election, or (iii) both.

The notice shall state that an answer by the contestee must be filed with the clerk of the appropriate house within ten days following service of the notice. The contestant shall sign and verify the notice by his oath or affirmation.

At the time of filing the notice, the contestant shall post a bond with surety with the Clerk of the House of Delegates or Senate, as appropriate, in the amount of $100 per precinct contained in whole or in part in the district being contested. If the contestant wins the contest, the bond shall not be forfeited. If the contestant loses the contest, the bond shall be forfeited to the extent of the contestee's actual and documented costs of defending against the contest, including, but not limited to, reasonable attorneys' fees, expert witnesses' fees, and such costs as would be taxable in an action at law. If the assessed costs exceed the bond, the contestant shall be liable for such excess only pursuant to subsection H.

C. Within ten days after service of the contestant's notice on the contestee, the contestee shall file with the clerk of the appropriate house a written answer. His answer shall admit or deny the allegations on which the contestant relies, or state that he has no knowledge or information concerning an allegation which shall be deemed denial, and state any other defenses, in law or fact, on which he relies. The contestee shall sign and verify his answer by his oath or affirmation.

D. The notice of intent to contest shall be filed by the contestant with the clerk of the appropriate house and copies thereof served by the contestant as provided under § 8.01-296 on each contestee. The answer, petition, and any reply and copies thereof shall be filed with the appropriate clerk, and copies shall be served on the opposing party or his counsel, if any, in the manner prescribed by Rule 1:12 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia.

After service of the notice of intent, any party, after reasonable notice to the other party or parties, shall be authorized to take depositions to sustain or invalidate the election. The contestant shall complete the taking of depositions to submit with his petition at any time within twenty days following the date of the notice of intent to contest the election, and the contestee shall complete the taking of his depositions within thirty days following the date of the notice of intent to contest the election. By written stipulation of the parties, the testimony of any witness may be filed in the form of an affidavit by the witness within the same time limitations prescribed for the taking of depositions.

Subpoenas for witnesses shall be issued by the clerk of the circuit court of the county or city in which the contestee resides on the application of either party. Witnesses shall be entitled to the same allowances and privileges, and be subject to the same penalties, as witnesses summoned to attend the courts.

Every deposition shall be taken before a person authorized by law to administer oaths, who shall certify and seal the deposition in the same manner as in judicial civil proceedings, and file the same with the clerk of the appropriate house.

E. A written petition shall be filed by the contestant with the clerk of the appropriate house (i) within ten days following the filing of the notice of intent to contest the election if the contested election was held at a November general election and (ii) within ten days following the date of the filing of the notice of intent to contest the election or within two days following the commencement of the next session of the General Assembly, whichever is later, if the election was held on a different date. The contestee may file a written reply to the petition within five days following its service on him.

No affidavit may be made a part of, or filed in support of, a petition or reply thereto unless the affidavit has previously been filed with the clerk of the appropriate house, pursuant to the written stipulation of the parties or their counsel, on or before the date established by subsection D for the completion of the taking of depositions by the proponent of the affidavit.

F. If the election was held during a regular session of the General Assembly, the times for filing the notice of intent to contest, the answer, petition, and reply and for taking depositions and affidavits shall be set by the Committee on Privileges and Elections of the appropriate house. The Committee may consider the contestant's and contestee's recommendations for the procedural schedule.

G. The clerk shall refer the notice, answer, petition, reply, depositions, and affidavits to the Committee on Privileges and Elections, which documents shall constitute the record in the contest. A failure to comply in timely manner with the filing requirements of subsection B, C, D, or E shall be dispositive of the contest and have the effect of a finding for the opponent of the party failing to meet such requirements.

Unless another committee has been designated by the rules of the house to hear contest matters, the Committee on Privileges and Elections shall hear the contest and conduct such investigation as has been directed by resolution of its house. It shall report its findings and recommendations to the house for its action. The committee hearing the contest shall take up the contest no later than its first regularly scheduled meeting occurring after the filing of the record in the contest.

H. The house, in its judgment, may find for the contestant and declare him elected, find for the contestee and confirm his election, or declare the election void and order a writ of election as in other cases of vacancy. If the house finds a tie vote has occurred, it shall direct a determination by lot in accordance with § 24.2-674, but no right to a recount shall be permitted. If the house finds, by a two-thirds vote of the house that the contestant has prosecuted the election contest in bad faith, the house may order the contestant to pay to the contestee a sum, in addition to the amount of the bond posted pursuant to subsection B, that is not more than the contestee's additional actual costs of defending against the contest, including, but not limited to, reasonable attorneys' fees, expert witnesses' fees, and such costs as would be taxable in an action at law. A determination to assess costs against a contestant in excess of the amount of the bond posted pursuant to subsection B shall be made only upon the recommendation of the Committee on Privileges and Elections, or other committee designated in the rules of the house to hear the contest, adopted by the committee by a two-thirds or greater vote of the committee.

1981, c. 570, § 24.1-236.1; 1993, c. 641; 1998, c. 866; 2000, c. 1057; 2006, c. 292.

§ 24.2-804. Contest of elections of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General.

In any election for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or Attorney General, notice of the intent to contest the election shall be filed with the Clerk of the House of Delegates as prescribed in § 24.2-803. The provisions of § 24.2-803 shall govern standing, notice of intent to contest, answers, service of process, evidence, the petition, procedures, relief, and assessed costs except (i) that in a contest of an election held at the November general election the petition shall be filed within two days following the commencement of a special session of the General Assembly called for the purpose of hearing the contest or of the next regular session of the General Assembly, whichever first occurs, and (ii) that the final determination shall be made by the General Assembly, both houses sitting in joint session in the hall of the House of Delegates, with the Speaker of the House of Delegates presiding.

At the time of filing the notice, the contestant shall post a bond with surety with the Clerk of the House of Delegates in the amount of $10 per precinct in the Commonwealth. If the contestant wins the contest, the bond shall not be forfeited. If the contestant loses the contest, the bond shall be forfeited and costs assessed as provided in subsections B and H of § 24.2-803.

Code 1950, §§ 24-427 through 24-429; 1970, c. 462, § 24.1-237; 1981, c. 570; 1993, c. 641; 2006, c. 292.

§ 24.2-805. Contest of elections of electors for President and Vice President or primaries for United States Senate or statewide office.

In an election of electors for the President and Vice President of the United States, or a primary for the United States Senate or any statewide office, the proceeding to contest shall be in the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond before a special court composed of the chief judge of such circuit court and two circuit court judges of circuits not contiguous to the City of Richmond appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, or, in the event of his inability to act, then by the next senior justice, who shall at the time of appointment set the date for trial.

If the chief judge of the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond is absent, unable to sit in the proceeding, or recuses himself, the clerk of the court shall at once certify that fact to the Chief Justice. Then the Chief Justice or the associate justice acting in his stead shall appoint a third judge, who shall be, if possible, a judge of the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond or an adjoining circuit.

Notwithstanding any provision of this chapter to the contrary: (i) notice of the intent to contest an election of electors for the President and Vice President of the United States shall be filed no later than 5:00 p.m. on the second calendar day after the day the State Board certifies the result of the election under § 24.2-679, but not thereafter; (ii) a copy of the complaint shall be served by the contestant as provided under § 8.01-296 on each contestee and within five calendar days after the Board has certified the results of such election, otherwise the complaint shall not be valid; (iii) the contestee's answer shall be filed within five calendar days after the complaint is served on him; (iv) the contest shall not wait upon the results of any recount; and (v) the proceedings shall be held promptly and completed, in accordance with the provisions of 3 U.S.C. § 5, at least six days before the time fixed for the meeting of the electors.

Code 1950, § 24-393; 1952, c. 489; 1970, c. 462, § 24.1-238; 1981, c. 570; 1993, c. 641; 2003, c. 268.

§ 24.2-806. Contest of other primaries and elections.

In a primary for the United States House of Representatives, the Virginia Senate, the House of Delegates, or any county, city, town, or district office, or an election to any county, city, town, or district office, the proceeding to contest shall be in the circuit court of the county or city that the challenged candidate listed as his residency on his certificate of candidate qualification. The proceeding shall be before a special court composed of the chief judge of such circuit court and two circuit court judges of circuits remote from the county or city that such candidate listed as his residency on his certificate of candidate qualification, appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, or, in the event of his inability to act, then by the next senior justice, who shall at the time of appointment set the date for trial.

If the chief judge of the circuit court of the city or county that the candidate listed as his residency on his certificate of candidate qualification is absent, unable to sit in the proceeding, or recuses himself, the clerk of the court shall at once certify that fact to the Chief Justice. Then the Chief Justice or the associate justice acting in his stead shall appoint a third judge, who shall be, if possible, a judge of the same or an adjoining circuit.

Code 1950, § 24-394; 1952, c. 489; 1970, c. 462, § 24.1-239; 1981, c. 570; 1987, c. 341; 1993, c. 641; 2019, c. 691.

§ 24.2-807. Contest only on complaint of unsuccessful party; contents of complaint.

The provisions of this section and §§ 24.2-808 through 24.2-813 govern contests conducted pursuant to §§ 24.2-805 and 24.2-806. The contest shall be initiated only by a written complaint of one or more of the unsuccessful candidates. The complaint shall contain (i) objections to the eligibility of the contestee based on specific allegations, (ii) objections to the conduct or results of the election accompanied by specific allegations which, if proven true, would have a probable impact on the outcome of the election, or (iii) both.

In an election of electors for the President and Vice President of the United States, the presidential candidate shall represent the vice presidential candidate and slate of electors and be the party to the contest for purposes of this article.

Code 1950, §§ 24-430, 24-432; 1970, c. 462, § 24.1-240; 1973, c. 30; 1981, c. 570; 1993, c. 641.

§ 24.2-808. Time of filing and service of complaint; enlargement or amendment of complaint.

The contestant shall file his complaint in the clerk's office of the circuit court within 30 days following the date of the election in the case of a general election, and within 10 days following the date of the election in case of a primary election or special election held on a date other than that of a general election. A copy of the complaint shall be served by the contestant as provided under § 8.01-296 on each contestee; otherwise the complaint shall not be valid. For a contest conducted pursuant to § 24.2-806, the copy of the complaint shall be served by the contestant on each contestee within 30 days following the date of the election in the case of a general election and within 10 days following the date of the election in the case of a primary or special election held on a date other than that of a general election.

No enlargement or amendment of the complaint, except as to form, shall be permitted save by leave of court as provided in Rule 1:8 of the Rules of Supreme Court of Virginia.

Code 1950, § 24-434; 1952, c. 489; 1970, c. 462, § 24.1-241; 1981, c. 570; 1993, c. 641; 2016, cc. 14, 490.

§ 24.2-809. Filing answer; contents; enlargement or amendment of answer.

The contestee shall, within ten days after the complaint is served on him, file in the clerk's office an answer, in which he shall admit or deny the allegations on which the contestant relies, or state that he has no knowledge or information concerning an allegation which shall be deemed denial, and state any other defenses, in law or fact, on which he relies. If no answer is filed within the time prescribed, the contestee shall not be heard to assert any claim or objection which is required by this section to be stated in the answer.

No enlargement or amendment of the answer, except as to form, shall be permitted save by leave of court as provided in Rule 1:8 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia.

Code 1950, § 24-435; 1952, c. 489; 1970, c. 462, § 24.1-242; 1981, c. 570; 1993, c. 641.

§ 24.2-810. Taking depositions and deciding contests.

After service of a copy of the complaint and after reasonable notice to the other party or parties, any party shall be authorized to take depositions to sustain or invalidate the election. The proceedings shall take precedence over all other business of the court or of any of the judges and shall be heard and determined as soon as possible. The contest shall be heard and determined without a jury, on the testimony thus taken and on any other legal testimony that may be adduced by any party. In judging the contest, the court shall proceed on the merits thereof and decide the same according to the Constitution and statutes of the Commonwealth.

Code 1950, § 24-436; 1952, c. 489; 1970, c. 462, § 24.1-243; 1981, c. 570; 1993, c. 641.

§ 24.2-811. Costs and issuance of certificate of election.

When the contest is decided, costs shall be taxed against the candidate filing the complaint if he is unsuccessful, or, if he is successful, against the counties and cities included in the area in which the election was held. A certificate of election shall be granted to the successful party, unless he has already received one.

Code 1950, §§ 24-395.3, 24-437; 1952, c. 489; 1970, c. 462, § 24.1-244; 1993, c. 641.

§ 24.2-812. Proceedings when court decides no valid election has been held.

If the court decides that there has been no valid election of any person, it shall declare the election void and the vacancy shall be filled in conformity with §§ 24.2-226 and 24.2-227.

Code 1950, § 24-438; 1970, c. 462, § 24.1-245; 1993, c. 641.

§ 24.2-813. Proceedings in contest for nominee.

In deciding any contest of a primary election, if the court can determine the candidate who has received a plurality of valid votes in the primary, it shall certify the name of that candidate to the State Board and the proper electoral board or boards. The candidate so certified shall be the party nominee and his name shall be printed on the official ballot for the election for which the primary was held. The name of no other person who was a candidate for the contested office in the primary shall be printed on the official ballots as a candidate for that office.

If the court is unable to determine which primary candidate received a plurality of valid votes or if the court decides that there has been no valid election, the party nominee shall be determined in accordance with the provisions of § 24.2-539.

Code 1950, § 24-395.1; 1952, c. 489; 1970, c. 462, § 24.1-246; 1993, c. 641.

§ 24.2-814. Contest following recount.

A candidate in a primary or an election to office, who was originally declared a winner and subsequently loses as the result of a recount, may file either (i) notice of his intent to contest the result in accordance with § 24.2-803 or 24.2-804 or (ii) a written complaint pursuant to § 24.2-805 or 24.2-806. Such notice or complaint shall be filed within 10 days following the date of the entry of the order of the recount court pursuant to subsection F of § 24.2-802.2.

In the case of a contest pursuant to § 24.2-803 or 24.2-804, the times for filing the answer, petition, and reply and for taking depositions and affidavits shall be set by the Committee on Privileges and Elections of the appropriate house. The Committee may consider the contestant's and contestee's recommendations for the procedural schedule.

This section shall not be applicable to a contest of an election for the President and Vice President of the United States.

1988, c. 714, § 24.1-241.1; 1993, c. 641; 2001, cc. 639, 641; 2003, c. 268; 2020, c. 886.

The chapters of the acts of assembly referenced in the historical citation at the end of these sections may not constitute a comprehensive list of such chapters and may exclude chapters whose provisions have expired.

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