The rollercoaster that was the election in Virginia’s 94th district has finally come to a close, with Republican David Yancey winning the tie-breaker after his name was randomly pulled out of a bowl.
After a last-minute legal challenge from Democrat Shelly Simmonds was rejected, the chairman for the State Board of Elections went on with the tie-breaker and pulled Republican incumbent David Yancey’s name out of a bowl.
The race was originally called for Yancey on election day by a slim margin of just 10 votes. However, the subsequent re-count ended up flipping the results and giving Simmonds a one-vote victory. The Yancey camp ended up challenging a single ballot that had been discarded, arguing that the voter clearly intended to vote down the line for the Republican ticket (even though he had voted for, and then crossed out, the line for Shelly Simmonds). A three-judge panel agreed and awarded the vote back to Yancey, creating a 11,608 tie vote.
Simmonds then appealed the decision, which put the tie-breaker on hold. Her lawyers asked the judges to reverse their previous decision and award her the victory instead. Not surprisingly, the three judges refused to overturn themselves and ordered that the tie-breaker go on as scheduled.
In the 94th Virginia district, ties are broken by lot. Candidates’ names are put into film cannisters and then placed in a large bowl. They do this, as opposed to just pulling out sheets of paper, to ensure that each name is of uniform size. Then, whichever name is pulled out of the bowl becomes the winner. On Thursday morning, State Board of Elections chairman James Alcorn pulled David Yancey’s name out of the bowl.
This means that the Republican majority in Richmond will be left in tact, although by the slimmest of margins. Republicans will hold a 51-49 majority in the House of Delegates and a 21-19 majority in the State Senate. They went into the 2017 election holding 66 House seats. While Democrats were able to flip 15 of them, it was not enough to end the GOP’s 17-year majority in the chamber.
Shelly Simmonds refused to concede the race after losing the drawing, vowing that “all options are still on the table, including a second re-count.” It is worth noting that when the first re-count showed her ahead by one vote, her lawyers opposed the notion of counting the votes again. Even if they were to win a second re-count, Chairman Alcorn declared that with the drawing results, David Yancey had been certified as the winner. It is next to impossible to challenge election results once a winner is certified.
This means that it will be even harder for Democrat Governor-elect Ralph Northam to implement his agenda. Any policy proposal will now have to pass two Republican-controlled chambers before becoming law, increasing the odds that key pieces of legislation — like the yearly budget — will have to be more moderate. When polled, most Americans like split governments where one party controls the executive and another holds majorities in the legislature. Maryland, for example, has a Democrat-controlled legislature but a Republican governor. While Maryland’s Democratic Party used Virginia’s election to taunt Gov. Hogan by saying he would be next, November polling showed the Republican governor has a 67 percent approval rating in deep-blue Maryland.
What do you think? Should Virginia decide election ties by pulling names out of a bowl? Let us know in the comment section below!