Yes, Virginia, one vote really matters

Saul Bowman
December 22, 2017

In a race for the Newport News state House of Delegates seat, a recount on Tuesday changed everything.

The two candidates in the 94th District, which includes Newport News in southeastern Virginia, are now tied at 11,608 votes.

Because Republicans now control 50 seats in the body to Democrats' 49 seats, the random decision could hand Republicans a majority, or leave power evenly split between the parties.

The day after a recount appeared to make Democrat Shelly Simonds the victor in the race, by one vote over Republican David Yancey - and split control of the Virginia House of Delegates, ending GOP control of the chamber after almost 20 years - a circuit court ruling set the vote as tied.

Those efforts to undermine democracy are being countered by a surge of it, one vote at a time.

Virginia's State Senate is controlled by a Republican majority.

Then on Wednesday Republicans questioned why a ballot cast for Yancey wasn't counted, and the judge ruled in their favor. That would mean both Yancey and Simonds had 11,608 votes each.

Newport News Va. House of Delegates recount now a tie after contested vote changed to Republican candidate

Election officials presiding over the five-hour recount on Tuesday had discarded that ballot.

"Today's decision by the court was wrong, and Delegate-elect Shelly Simonds should have been certified the victor". One might infer a Republican preference, but there is no way to know for sure, and hence in my opinion the court should not be making inferences, although I will allow I do not know the legal standard in Virginia. It also was a textbook lesson, in an age of fights over access to the voting booth, that every ballot matters.

In most states ― about 35 total, according to a Washington Post analysis ― election ties are broken by "drawing lots," or, in other words, in a game of chance.

"We understand that public reports indicate the recount of the 94th House of Delegates election has ended in a tie vote".

"We asked the recount Court to consider this ballot".

Under Virginia law, such a tie should be determined "by lot" - and the names may literally be pulled out of a hat, election officials told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Will there be a coin toss? Just one vote secured Shelly Simonds' victory and shifted the balance of power in the Virginia House of Delegates, ending a 17-year Republican majority.

"They're going to have to actually draw by lots", Mr. Kays said, with a shade of disbelief.


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