By Laura Vozzella January 4, 2018
RICHMOND — A Virginia elections official reached into an artsy bowl, pulled out a name and named Republican David E. Yancey the winner of a House of Delegates race that could determine which political party controls the chamber.
Triumphant Republicans declared that they would be in charge when the legislature reconvenes Wednesday. But Democrat Shelly Simonds did not concede, and she could request a second recount.
… Thursday’s dramatic and rare election lottery, carried live on CNN, drew national attention as an odd way to decide a highly consequential contest. Simonds and a crowd of about 100 state officials, journalists and politicos crowded into the West Reading Room of the Patrick Henry Building for the event. Yancey was not present, although he sent a representative.
The Democrat sat in the first row, between her husband, Paul, and her 15-year-old daughter, Georgia, holding both of their hands. “It’s okay,” she said softly to Georgia after State Board of Elections Chairman James Alcorn announced that Yancey had won.
Republican Del. David E. Yancey and Democrat Shelly Simonds attend a “take your legislator to school day” in November, when their race was in limbo. (Julia Rendleman/For The Washington Post)
She left the room for a few minutes, then returned to say she was not conceding — at least not yet. She said she was “reflecting” on whether to seek what would be the contest’s second recount. She has 10 days to make the request.
… Yancey will not be seated if a recount is pending, said House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights), who is in line to become speaker if Republicans control the chamber.
But even without Yancey, the GOP would enjoy a 50-49 majority on the first day, when delegates pick a speaker for the next two years.
Talking to reporters outside the House chamber just 90 minutes after the lottery, Cox was direct: “We will be in the majority on the first day.”
Republicans boasted a seemingly insurmountable 66-34 majority heading into November elections. But as Democrats swept statewide offices for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, they also picked up at least 15 House seats in a blue wave widely viewed as a rebuke to President Trump.
By early afternoon, Simonds released a statement that laid out the Democratic political priorities at stake.
“When people asked me today if I felt lucky, the answer was and always will be ‘yes,’ ” it said. “I have a wonderful life, family, career and community. I have health care. I had access to a quality education. I can see a doctor when I’m sick. Not everyone in this world, this country, and the 94th District is as lucky. There are nearly 400,000 Virginians who have been denied access to affordable health care through Medicaid expansion. I hope our lawmakers in the House of Delegates do not leave their fate to a game of chance.”
…But that’s small comfort to Democratic voters who turned out in droves in November, said Larry J. Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist. He blames gerrymandering for allowing Republicans to cling to power in the House even though, when tallied as a whole, Democrats won 55 percent of the House votes.
“The voters, whether they were right or wrong, decided they wanted to move in a Democratic direction,” Sabato said. “That was their choice. Is it any wonder why voters get disillusioned? The Republicans can now kill anything (Gov.-elect Ralph) Northam (D) proposes.”
If Simonds seeks and wins a second recount, the 100-member House would be split right down the middle, ending the GOP’s 18-year hold on the lower chamber.
On Election Day, Yancey appeared to beat Simonds by 10 votes in the 94th legislative district. Then a Dec. 19 recount left Simonds ahead by a single vote, prompting House Republicans to concede.
The next day, the three-judge recount court decided that a ballot declared ineligible during the recount should be tallied for Yancey, tying the race at 11,608 votes apiece. The voter, whose identity is unknown, filled in bubbles on the paper ballot for Simonds and Yancey but also made a slanted mark across the Simonds bubble. That voter chose Republicans in other state-level offices but also made slash marks across a filled-in bubble for Republican Ed Gillespie in the gubernatorial race. Those marks were counted for Gillespie because the voter made no marks at all for the eventual winner, Northam.
The court ruled the extra mark in the delegate’s race was an effort to strike out the vote for Simonds. Republicans agreed. But Democrats, contending the voter’s intent was unclear, said the ballot should have been thrown out.
Simonds asked the recount court to reconsider, but the judges rejected that request on the eve of Thursday’s drawing…
Read the full story here