MENU
component-ddb-728x90-v1-01-desktop

A random drawing won a Republican a key Virginia House race. So what happens now?

FILE - In this Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017, file photo, Republican incumbent state Del. David Yancey walks with campaign manager Gretchen Heal outside the Newport News Courthouse in Newport News, Va. A three judge panel on Wednesday, Jan., 3, 2018, has rejected a request to reconsider its ruling in an election recount between Yancey and Democrat challenger Shelly Simonds, that could determine partisan control of the Virginia House of Delegates. State elections officials plan to meet Thursday, Jan. 4, to randomly pick a winner in the contest. (Jonathon Gruenke/The Daily Press via AP, File)

Take two pieces of paper, two plastic film canisters and a glass bowl.

Put them all together, and you had a high-stakes political drama in Richmond Thursday.

“There are many states that use random drawings such as ours,” said James Alcorn, the Virginia Board of Elections chairman.

That random drawing, in a meeting room packed with dozens of reporters, photographers, and political operatives, selected the winner in the hotly contested 94th District Delegate race in Newport News.

A rare tiebreaker between GOP incumbent David Yancey and Democratic challenger Shelly Simonds.

Each candidate had won exactly 11,608 votes.

“I had to be emotionally prepared,” Simonds told reporters later. “I know what it's like to win, and I know what it's like to lose.”

The drawing consisted of printing each candidate’s name on separate pieces of paper.

Each piece was slipped into a film canister, then both of the small containers were tossed into a glass bowl, stirred around, and then Alcorn reached into the bowl, pulled one canister out, and read the name.

“David Yancey,” he said in a loud voice, holding up a small printed sheet.

The room fell into a hush, then several dozen people suddenly got up and walked out.

Yancey did not appear at the drawing, but Simonds couldn’t hide her disappointment.

“I offered my opponent a deal that would have made this final,” she said. “He did not take the deal and therefore for me, all options are on the table.”

Simonds declined to concede the race, and later released a statement in which she said, “I am tremendously grateful to my supporters. They will be the first to know of my first steps.”

Yancey released a statement of his own, complimenting Simonds on a hard-fought campaign.

“This race could not have been any closer,” it said. “The election is behind us, the outcome is clear, and my responsibility now is to begin the work I was reelected to do.”

The drawing comes after up and down decisions in the race, that at various times favored one candidate over the other.

Yancey initially appeared to win the 94th district seat in during the November election by 10 votes.

A recount gave Simonds the victory by a margin of a single vote.

Republicans later issued statements congratulating Simonds, even conceding the race.

The next day, a three-judge recount panel certified the race as a tie after Yancey’s attorneys successfully argued that an uncounted ballot should have been included in his total.

A Republican recount official submitted a letter to the court saying he was “confused” about election board guidelines when he agreed to leave the vote uncounted.

On the ballot in question, the voter filled in the bubble for Yancey and the bubble for Simonds. He or she also drew a single slash through the bubble for Simonds.

That voter also selected only Republican candidates on the rest of the ballot.

Trevor Stanley, an attorney for Yancey, argued the slash in Simonds’ bubble meant the voter was picking Yancey.

Ezra Reese, an attorney for Simonds, said under election guidelines, the ballot should have been tossed out because it contained more than one type of extra marking.

With the Thursday drawing, the Board of Elections certified Yancey as the winner.

“According to the code of Virginia, this particular election has been finalized,” says Clara Belle Wheeler, a Republican member of the board.

Asked if Simonds had the option to request a second recount, Wheeler didn’t sound optimistic.

“I don't know what legal grounds she could use to reopen a case, but I'm not an attorney,” she said. “There’s conflicted parts of the code, but there's one part that says there are no recounts of recounts.”

Alcorn says he believes at some point in the future, state lawmakers will try to come up with alternative solutions on procedures for races that end in a tie.

“Folks have asked, ‘What if the second recount ends in a tie? Do you have a second drawing and do you end up in this infinite loop?’” Alcorn said.

The drawing decision maintains GOP control of the Virginia House of Delegates, 51-49.

If Simonds is not commenting on her next step in the 94th District race, she’s making it clear she’s not bowing out of state politics.

“At this moment I am not conceding, but I am reflecting on a very interesting campaign and a very hard fought campaign,” she says. “Believe me, I'm going to be running again, and trying to get up to the General Assembly because I know I can do more work for my community up in the General Assembly.”

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off

Trending