The Virginia election that took place last month still isn’t over. A seat in the House of Delegates that remains undecided will either leave Republicans in control of the chamber or split the House evenly, forcing the GOP to share power with Democrats for the first time in 17 years. Yesterday, the results of a recount determined that Democratic candidate Shelly Simonds had won the seat by exactly one vote over Republican David Yancey. From yesterday’s Washington Post:
The balance of power in Virginia’s legislature turned on a single vote in a recount Tuesday that flipped a seat in the House of Delegates from Republican to Democratic, leaving control of the lower chamber evenly split…
Of the 23,215 votes cast in the district on Election Day, Yancey held a lead of just 10 votes going into Tuesday’s recount.
But five hours later, after a painstaking counting overseen by local elections officials and the clerk of court, Yancey’s lead narrowed — and then reversed.
The final tally: 11,608 for Simonds to 11,607 for Yancey.
The DLCC celebrated Simonds’ narrow win:
BREAKING: After a very close recount from November’s election, @shelly_simonds has officially won the election in HD94 – BY ONE VOTE – flipping the seat from red to blue. Congratulations, Shelly! pic.twitter.com/Du9V8DrcTt
— Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (@DLCC) December 19, 2017
Emily’s List celebrated:
Oh, you thought we were done with the all good election news? Our endorsed candidate @shelly_simonds just won her race by ONE VOTE, ending GOP control of the VA House of Delegates. Every. Vote. MATTERS! pic.twitter.com/RVZqq7ikeh
— EMILY's List (@emilyslist) December 19, 2017
Governor-elect Northam celebrated:
Every vote matters—congratulations @shelly_simonds. Looking forward to partnering with you to make life better for every Virginian, no matter who you are, no matter where you live. https://t.co/USiIVFTphm
— Ralph Northam (@RalphNortham) December 19, 2017
And former VP candidate Tim Kaine celebrated saying “EVERY. VOTE. MATTERS”:
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
Kaine was right about every vote mattering. In fact, today a three-judge panel declined to certify Simonds win and instead ruled that a previously discarded ballot should be counted for Yancey. From the Washington Post:
The ballot in question contained a mark for Democrat Shelly Simonds as well as a mark for Republican Del. David Yancey but that the voter had made another mark to strike out Simonds’ name.
Election officials presiding over the five-hour recount on Tuesday had discarded that ballot. But Republicans challenged that decision in court Wednesday, saying the voter had selected every other Republican on the ballot and intended to vote for Yancey.
Here’s an image of the ballot in question.
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
That means the race is a tie. So what happens now? Apparently, the state is going to draw lots to determine the winner. From ABC News:
The Virginia Department of Elections said Wednesday that they were still waiting for a final order from the circuit court before proceeding on how to determine a winner.
“We understand that public reports indicate the recount of the 94th House of Delegates election has ended in a tie vote. At this time, the matter is still with the recount court. Once the court has issued a final order, we can better evaluate what next steps are necessary for the State Board of Elections or Department of Elections to take,” Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Edgardo Cortés wrote in a statement provided to ABC News.
Virginia law stipulates, “If two or more persons have an equal number of votes for any county, city, town, or district office, and a higher number than any other person, the electoral board shall proceed publicly to determine by lot which of the candidates shall be declared elected.”
I don’t know how this is going to actually work and I’m not sure anyone else knows either. Will the candidates draw straws? Will there be a coin toss? Is it too late to erect a Thunderdome in Richmond? Drawing lots is a crazy way to choose a representative. Either way, exactly half of the voters are going to be disappointed.