A three-judge panel in Virginia decided Wednesday to count a
ballot cast for a Republican in a race for the state’s House of
Delegates that was decided by just one
vote, meaning the contest is now a tie.
A recount completed Tuesday determined Democrat Shelly Simonds
had defeated Republican incumbent David Yancey by just one
vote. The race is being closely watched because control of the
Virginia House of Delegates hinges on its outcome.
Judges on the Newport News Circuit Court
determined Wednesday that a ballot on which the voter
had marked the bubbles for both Yancey and Simonds, and then
tried to clarify which one, should have been counted for Yancey
rather than discarded during the recount.
The ballot in question apparently had marks for Yancey and
Simonds, with a strike through Simonds’ name. The voter had
also put a strike through their vote for Ed Gillespie, the
Republican candidate for governor.
According to a provision in a Virginia law, a general assembly
race that results in a tie is decided by the state Board of
Elections determining a winner “by lot” ― meaning
the winner is selected through a process like picking names out
of a hat, drawing straws or flipping a coin. This means that
control of the House of Delegates could hinge on a process that
leaves the outcome up to chance.
If Simonds wins, the House of Delegates will be split 50-50
between Republicans and Democrats. If Yancey wins, Republicans
will have a 51-49 majority in the chamber.
Speaking to reporters after the decision, Yancey declined to
comment on the possibility of a coin toss, saying he was
focused on Wednesday’s results and serving the people of his
district. He said his understanding was that the Virginia Board
of Elections would determine what happened next.
Republicans have controlled the Virginia House of Delegates for
Marc Elias, an attorney for the Virginia Democratic Party, said
in a statement that the court’s ruling was incorrect.
“Today’s decision by the court was wrong, and Delegate-elect
Shelly Simonds should have been certified the winner. We are
currently assessing all legal options before us as we fight for
a just result,” Elias said. “The Republicans themselves had
affirmed that this result was accurate yesterday before
changing their minds today. After conceding this seat and their
majority, they are now desperately trying to claw both back
‘like a snarling dog
that won’t let go of a bone.’”
This article has been updated with additional details about
the decision and comment from Elias.
Republican David Yancey and Democrat Shelly Simonds attend a
“take your legislator to school day” at Heritage High School
in Newport News, Virginia, on on Nov. 28. (The
Washington Post via Getty Images)
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