A single vote on a puzzling ballot has control of Virginia’s legislature hanging in the balance

source
Virginian Pilot

  • A disputed ballot has changed the outcome in a crucial Virginia House of Delegates race.
  • Now the winner could be determined, in essence, by a coin flip.

After a recount effort led to a Virginia Democrat winning an election by a single vote and flipping control of the House of Delegates, one disputed ballot has subsequently been counted for the Republican candidate – and tied the race back up.

Now, the winner could essentially be determined by a coin flip.

On Tuesday, Virginia officials announced that House candidate Shelly Simonds, a Democrat, was found to have won her election over Republican incumbent David Yancey by just one vote, with a final tally of 11,608 to 11,607.

That result would swing the state’s House of Delegates to a 50-50 tie.

Even though a three-judge panel had to certify the results Wednesday, Virginia Republicans conceded that they lost their majority.

“After a close recount it appears the citizens of the 94th District have elected Shelly Simonds to the Virginia House of Delegates, pending confirmation by a three judge panel,” a statement from Virginia Republican House leadership said. “We congratulate Delegate-elect Simonds and welcome her to this historic body. We also thank Delegate David Yancey for his distinguished service.”

But on Wednesday, chaos erupted again.

That panel of judges decided to count a disputed ballot for Yancey, which pulled him even with Simonds. That ballot is shown above. The voter had selected the Republican candidate at all other levels, but seemed to accidentally fill in two bubbles in the House of Delegates race.

According to Virginia law, “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.”

House Democrats slammed the decision in a statement.

“Today’s decision by the court was wrong, and Delegate-elect Shelly Simonds should have been certified the winner,” their attorney, Marc Elias, said. “We are currently assessing all legal options before us as we fight for a just result.”

“The Republicans themselves had affirmed that this result was accurate yesterday before changing their minds today,” he continued. “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.'”