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Republican candidate Mark Obenshain has formally filed a petition requesting a recount in the race for attorney general.

Representatives of the Obenshain campaign filed the petition in Richmond Circuit Court Wednesday morning.

“We look forward to a process that is civil, that is fair, that respects the law and that gives Virginia voters confidence in the ultimate result,” said Paul Logan, spokesman for the Obenshain campaign.

In official election returns certified this week, Obenshain lost to Democrat Mark Herring by 165 votes, out of a statewide total of about 2.2 million votes cast. In the last statewide recount in 2005, 37 votes were changed, according to Herring’s campaign.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Obenshain’s legal team said that the recount will likely focus on “undervotes” — ballots on which a vote was recorded for some races but not others.

Unlike the 2005 recount, which was also for the position of attorney general, all optical scan ballots will have to be scanned again, with the machines programmed to spit out any undervote ballots, said Stephen Piepgrass, an attorney with Troutman Sanders who is representing Obenshain.

State law regarding recounts was changed in 2008 in an effort led by Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Dist. 25), who was on the losing end of the 2005 recount.

Those ballots will then be examined by hand to determine whether the voter attempted to mark a vote in the attorney general’s race that wasn’t picked up by the optical scan machine, said Ashley Taylor, another lawyer from Troutman Sanders who is part of the legal team.

Any disputed ballots will be sealed and sent to Richmond for the special three-judge recount panel to review, Piepgrass said.

There are an estimated 50,000 undervoted ballots statewide, according to some analysts. Logan said that is the assumption the campaign is working under.

In a released statement, Herring said he respects Obenshain’s right to request a recount but is still moving ahead as if he is the attorney general-elect.

“His tactics, however, will not impede our efforts to build the finest team to serve all Virginians in the Office of Attorney General or prepare for the 2014 legislative session,” Herring said.

The recount process is expected to begin in mid-December, with the actual counting expected to take two days in some larger jurisdictions and additional time required for setting the rules of the recount and reviewing disputed ballots.

kschumitz@fairfaxtimes.com