A pivotal election to decide control of the Virginia House of Delegates will be chosen by a coin flip after a recount ended up in a tie vote after first giving a one-vote lead to the Democrat.
The candidates in the race are Democrat Shelly Simonds and Republican Del. David Yancey. Initially, Yancey had a 10-vote lead. After a recount, Simonds had a single vote edge. That’s when a panel of judges got involved and gave Yancey a contested vote, tying the election, which is for the 94th House District seat in Virginia.
According to the Virginian-Pilot, each candidate is now recorded as having earned 11,608 votes. The election will be decided randomly next week.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. A Court Declared That There Was No Winner in the Race
A panel of judges declared the election a tie over a single contested ballot. “…a three-judge panel declined to certify the recount of a key House race, saying that a questionable ballot should be counted in favor of the Republican and tying a race that Democrats thought they had won by a single vote,” The Washington Post reported. This is that ballot:
It was Newport News Circuit Court Judge Bryant Sugg who declared, according to The Post: “The court declares there is no winner in this election.” According to the Post, the disputed ballot had marks for both the Democrat and Republican in the race but “the voter had made another mark to strike out Simonds’ name,” causing the judges to list the ballot as a vote for Yancey, thus tying the race.
According to The Washington Post, the decisive ballot was initially discarded after a five-hour recount. Other votes on the ballot were for Republicans, Fox News reported.
2. The Candidates Will ‘Draw Lots’ To Determine the Winner
You don’t see this very often in politics: A race that will be decided by chance. Virginia election law says this about races that end up in a literal tie:
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.
If any two or more persons have an equal number of votes and a higher number than any other person for member of the General Assembly or of the Congress of the United States, or elector of President and Vice President of the United States, the State Board of Elections shall proceed publicly to determine by lot which of them shall be declared elected. Reasonable notice shall be given to such candidates of the time when such elections shall be so determined; and if they, or either of them, shall fail to appear in accordance with such notice, the Board shall proceed so as to determine the election in their absence.
However, the loser can… petition for another recount, per Virginia law.
3. The Candidates’ Names Will Be Placed in Old Film Canisters
What does it mean to draw lots? The Virginian-Pilot described how the election will be decided in this instance: “In this case, both names will be placed in old film canisters and put into a clear bowl. The canisters will be shuffled and a name picked as the winner.”
The film canisters have been used before, the newspaper reported, as elections officials have used the approach to determine which names to place first on ballots. Meanwhile, the Democrats are upset by the judicial-declared tie. “Today’s decision by the court was wrong, and Delegate-elect Shelly Simonds should have been certified the winner,” Democratic attorney Marc Elias said in a news release, according to the Virginian-Pilot. “The Republicans themselves had affirmed that this result was accurate yesterday before changing their minds today.”
4. The Election Will Determine Which Party Controls the Virginia House of Delegates
The results of the election are no small matter in Virginia. According to Fox News, “The election’s outcome likely will decide partisan control of the House of Delegates. If Yancey wins, Republicans will hold on to power by one seat, 51-49.”
However, reported Fox, “If Simonds wins, a rare power-sharing agreement would have to be brokered between Democrats and Republicans. But if no agreement can be reached, prolonged chaos could ensue.”
Yancey declared himself “just grateful that every vote was counted.” A GOP election official had said he was confused about the rules when he agreed not to count the disputed ballot, Fox News reported.
5. Simonds Is a Former Teacher & Yancey Worked in Real Estate
According to her campaign website, Simonds “is an educator and a community leader in Newport News. A former teacher, Shelly is a member of the Newport News School Board with a passion for excellence in education.” She worked as a Spanish teacher and journalist.
“In college, I studied in Spain and Chile, where I became fluent in Spanish and discovered my love of writing and journalism,” the website says. “My passion led me to pursue a Masters in Communications from Stanford University, then to a job in journalism. I moved to Newport News in 2000 with my husband Paul, a NASA engineer.”
David Yancey built a career in his family’s real estate business. “In 2001 David returned to Newport News to work in his family’s real estate business and a few years later he started his own real estate development company,” his campaign website says. “Throughout the next decade David continued to grow his business, expanding to commercial fishing with a new business partner on the Eastern Shore.”
Yancey is the incumbent in the race.