The tiebreaker to randomly decide the new Delegate for Newport News has been postponed after lawyers for the Democrat candidate filed a new appeal challenging the legitimacy of the tie.
The battle over Virginia’s 94th Legislative District just took another turn. Members from the State Board of Elections were supposed to announce the election’s winner on Wednesday evening through a tiebreaker (pulling a name out of a bowl). However, at the last minute, lawyers for Democrat challenger Shelly Simmonds filed an appeal of a three-judge panel’s ruling.
As recently as last week, Simmonds led Republican incumbent David Yancey by just one vote after the recount. Yancey’s attorneys, however, noticed one ballot that had been discarded but appeared to have been cast for Yancey.
The voter in question voted down the Republican party line on his or her ballot. When they got to the 94th District race, they originally seemed to have voted for Shelly Simmonds. However, the voter put an X through her bubble and properly filled out the bubble next to Yancey’s name.
Democrat poll watchers had argued that the voter’s intent was vague and uncertain, leading it to be discarded during the recount. However, Republican attorneys successfully argued in court that the X through Simmonds, combined with the fact that he voted for every other Republican on the ballot, showed the voter’s intent to vote for Yancey.
That ruling is now being appealed. James Alcorn, the Chairman of the State Elections Board, decided to postpone the tiebreaker drawing until all of the legal challenges are exhausted.
“Any substantive concerns regarding the election or recount should be resolved before a random drawing is conducted,” Alcorn explained.
While the odds of a race being perfectly tied are slim, it has happened before. Most states have doomsday provisions in the event of a tie, usually involving tiebreakers like games of chance to choose the winner.
Many in Virginia are unhappy that the future of the House of Delegates will be decided by, essentially, pulling a name out of a hat. While Simmonds’ appeal may have postponed that, it opens the door for another judge to make the decision whether to allow the mis-marked ballot, which isn’t all that better.
The whole situation serves as a potent reminder that every vote matters. There are undoubtedly Democrats and Republican voters in Newport News who forgot, were unable, or chose not to vote. If just one of them had gone to the polls, we wouldn’t be in this situation and we would already have a winner.
A lot of that has to do with the fact that this is was an off-year election. Many states deliberately hold their statewide elections during off-years in order to make sure that national politics don’t sway votes on local issues. When Congressmen, Senators, or Presidential candidates aren’t on the ballot, turnout is always noticeably lower.
But a lot of blame also has to be placed on the current political climate in this country. After a heated and contentious 2016 election season, the country has actually gotten more polarized since then, causing many people to just check out of the process all together. Just under 31 percent of Newport News residents who voted in 2016 showed up to vote in this year’s election.
How do you think Virginia should resolve a tied election? Let us know your idea in the comment section below!