The majority in Virginia’s state House of Delegates was decided by casting lots Thursday. After three recounts, the contentious race essentially came down to a coin toss.
On Election Day, Virginia Democrats wiped out a 66-34 Republican majority in the House, with avowed socialists and transgender candidates winning seats. The original results for Virginia’s 94th District favored three-term incumbent Del. David Yancey (R) over Democratic challenger Shelly Simonds, but that was just the beginning of the story.
Yancey beat Simonds by 10 votes, but on December 19 the Democrat won a recount by a single vote. The very next day, a three-judge panel in Newport News declared a tie based on a previously uncounted vote for Yancey.
The Virginia Board of Elections decided to leave the race up to chance by casting lots. On Thursday, Chairman of the Board James B. Alcorn and Vice Chair Clara Belle Wheeler wrote the name of each candidate on a slip of paper, put the papers in two separate film canisters, and randomized them in a cobalt-blue-and-white ceramic bowl. Alcorn randomly chose Yancey’s name, making him the winner.
Simonds can, however, request yet another recount, and another close race is locked in a court battle.
With Yancey’s provisional win through casting lots, Republicans hold a slim majority of 51-49 in the state House.
While Simonds could ask for another recount, such a move would delay a winner being declared before the 2018 legislative session begins next week. That would still allow Republicans to elect a speaker and make committee assignments based on a 50-49 majority.
The other undecided race centered on the 28th District. Republican Bob Thomas defeated Democratic candidate Joshua Cole by 73 votes, but it was discovered that 147 votes were cast in the wrong races. Cole did not contest the results, but Democratic voters filed a federal lawsuit seeking a new election. Cole decided not to contest the race because his challenge could stall the lawsuit. A federal court hearing on this election is scheduled for Friday.
The Yancey-Simonds race has been widely reported, as it illustrates the importance of voting in every election. Elections can be decided by one single vote, and this should motivate voter turnout in the future.
A similar tie vote was decided by casting lots in 1971. Republican William H. Moss Sr. appeared to lose the election for a seat in northern Virginia, but after a recount ended in a tie, Moss was declared the winner after a blindfolded state elections official pulled his name out of a large decorative cup.
Even if Simonds requests yet another recount, Republicans have won this round, and that will forestall the Democrat control of Virginia’s House of Delegates for the time being. One lesson is clear, however — everyone should vote.
Watch the random drawing below.