The outcome of the Virginia House race between Republican David Yancey and Democrat Shelly Simonds was finally decided today by drawing film canisters containing the candidate’s names from a special bowl made by a Virginia artist. David Yancey was selected as the winner meaning the chamber will remain under GOP control rather than an evenly divided House which would require both parties to share control.
If you’ve somehow missed this story until now, it initially appeared that Yancey, the Republican, had won the race by 10 votes. That was back in November. But a recount performed in mid-December resulted in an apparent win by Shelly Simonds, who finished with a one-vote lead over Yancey. At the time there was much rejoicing by Virginia Democrats:
EVERY. VOTE. MATTERS.
Incredible win for @shelly_simonds, the next Delegate for #HD94. Determines control of the House. First time GOP hasn't won a majority since the 1990s. Virginia's progressive path continues! https://t.co/t5cRdb5Yj1
— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) December 19, 2017
But the following day a court refused to certify the recount results and instead decided to count one ballot which had been excluded. That ballot showed both Yancey and Simonds had been selected, but Simonds name was crossed out. The rest of the ballot was a straight GOP vote.
Here’s the contested ballot in the Virginia Delegate race. How it’s counted is the difference between a tie and a one-vote win.
How would you count this ballot? A vote for Simonds, a vote for Yancey, or doesn’t count (voted twice/impossible to tell who they wanted)? pic.twitter.com/p7sBYJhEmD
— Rep. Chaz Beasley (@ChazBeasley) December 20, 2017
By allowing that last ballot to count the race became a tie, 11,607 votes for each candidate. The state board of elections scheduled a drawing to determine the winner by the drawing of lots as required by Virginia law. That was originally supposed to happen just after Christmas but the day before it was scheduled Democrat Simonds filed a motion to have that last ballot thrown out. Her motion was denied yesterday, January 3rd.
And that brings us to today and the surreal scene of a bureaucrat drawing film canisters from a bowl to decide the winner of an election and the control of the Virginia House. In a moment of levity, just before the drawing, chairman James Alcorn explained that the board had been using a cardboard box for similar drawings to decide things like the order of candidates on the ballot. But because of the significance of this drawing, he had a special bowl brought in. “I wanted something that was a little more appropriate for the importance of today’s drawing so I did ask the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to find us a bowl that was made by a Virginia artist,” Alcorn said. He then introduced a woman from the museum who talked about the bowl which, appropriately, was blue on the outside and red on the inside.
So is this finally over? Well, maybe. CNN reports that immediately after the names were drawn Democrat Shelly Simonds pulled a Roy Moore and refused to concede:
After the lot draw, Simonds did not rule out seeking a second recount, saying “all options are still on the table.”
“At this moment, I am not conceding,” she said…
Yancey’s win gives Republicans a 51-49 majority and continued control of the House — allowing them to stymie Democrat Ralph Northam, who won November’s governor’s race. A Simonds win would have forced the parties to share power in the House.
Here’s video of the drawing. It all seems very straightforward but given the outcome, I’m half-expecting some left-wing blog to report that a GOP member of the board was a trained magician.
Update: I missed the McKayla Maroney reaction of the female board member when Yancey’s name was called.