Control of Virginia Government to Come Down to a Coin Toss

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Residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia are about to come face to face with the reality that “every vote matters”.

Going in to the November 2017 election, the state’s Republican Party controlled both legislative houses, in the state’s General Assembly they enjoyed a 66 to 34 margin over Democrats; however, the Gubernatorial and state legislative elections were not good to the state’s GOP, with Democrats retaining the state’s Governorship, Lt. Governor’s office and Attorney General, but even worse for Republicans, they watched their 32-seat lead in the statehouse crumble to a 50-50 split.  Per the Commonwealth’s Constitution, the state’s Lt. Governor, a Democrat-elect, would be responsible for casting in tie-breaking votes — effectively making him the most important legislator in the state.

However, Republicans challenged the results of the state’s 94th District (Newport News), and after multiple recounts it was determined that the election either ended in a tie of 11,608 votes for both the Republican incumbent (David Yancey) or the Democrat challenger (Shelly Simmonds) or Simmonds was the winner by a single vote — all dependent upon a single ballot.  A ballot Democrats argue should be thrown out, while Republicans say is a vote for Yancey.

The ballot, which voted straight Republican in all other listed elections, has a bubble darkened for both Yancey and Simmonds, but a line is drawn through the Democrat’s bubble:

Ballot

After hours of deliberations, a three-judge panel determined to count the ballot as a vote for the Republican incumbent, thus tying the contest at 11,608 votes each.

§ 24.2-674 of the Code of Virginia states that “If two or more persons have an equal number of votes… the electoral board shall proceed publicly to determine by lot which of the candidates shall be declared elected.”

Effectively, a coin toss.

That’s it.  Control of Virginia’s legislature now rests in a lot.

The chairman of the State Board of Elections stated that the winner will be selected by placing names on slips of paper into two film canisters and then drawing the canisters from a glass bowl.  The drawing has been scheduled for Wednesday, December 27, 2017.

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